There has been an important development in the past couple of weeks at leading UK independent dealer Complete Business Solutions.
Just before Christmas, the company filed a notice of intention (NOI) to appoint administrators. This has given it ten working days to come up with a viable rescue plan or find a buyer for the business. If neither of those outcomes is achieved, then the next course of action is to enter administration. This could happen by 9 January, although the NOI period can be extended under certain circumstances.
Complete embarked on an aggressive dealer acquisition strategy a few years ago under the leadership of CEO Richard Coulson. He took the reseller from annual sales of just £8 million in 2012 to more than £100 million in 2020 (its most recent publicly available accounts), vying with Commercial for the number one spot in the UK independent dealer channel.
However, with the acquisitions – the last of which was made at the end of 2019 – came debt obligations that were reliant on growth and strong cash flows. Manageable, apparently, pre-COVID, but a different story as sales dropped during the UK’s multiple lockdowns – in the first eight months of 2021, for example, revenue was trending at around 65% of pre-pandemic levels. Headcount was reduced by 35% and several sites were closed as Complete took action to reduce its cost base, but this does not appear to have been enough.