March 25, 2023

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Rising energy prices: should we expect a “wall of bankruptcies”?

While companies are worried about soaring prices, the government is bringing electricity suppliers together to sign a “charter of good conduct”. Will she reassure employers who are sounding the alarm? The decryption of Fanny Guinochet.

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Bruno Le Maire summons energy suppliers on Wednesday October 5 haswhen companies worry about soaring prices. Employers speak of a wall of bankruptcies to come. Does he have reason to sound the alarm? The Medef is in its role, but it is true that there is an entry into a zone of turbulence. Especially for companies that have a strong need for energy. For them, the rise in costs is such that they reduce their activity, or even are forced to shut down simply because, with electricity or gas so expensive, they produce at a loss.

Hence this summoning of energy suppliers by Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy. He will ask them to make an effort to renegotiate contracts with the most fragile companies. This is particularly the case for VSEs and SMEs in the bakery, catering, food, automotive or transport sectors. They are often cornered. The union of the self-employed, which brings together companies with fewer than ten employees, notes, for example, a significant increase in requests for cessation of activity: more than 60% in two years and it has been very marked in recent months.

After waves of Covid, small bosses let go and no longer see any prospects: too many costs, constraints, personnel problems. Ways of working are changing, and so are customer expectations. They no longer earn enough to continue. For the time being, there is therefore no surge in payment defaults, or insolvency proceedings. There is certainly an increase in business failures this year, by 20%, but we remain below the pre-Covid period. It’s more of a “catch-up” after years of “whatever it takes” which have kept societies artificially alive, but it is not a “bankruptcy wall” per se.

You have to be extremely careful between the unstable geopolitical situation, the rising interest rates, the price of raw materials which does not weaken, the logistical problems, the lack of parts and a demand which slows down due to inflation… Without forget, the risk of social tensions because of wages or an upcoming pension reform. There is a kind of accumulation that could strongly affect our economy.