Channel bankruptcies may be less frequent than they were a few years ago, but when they do come along, they tend to be bigger.
Of course, no one can predict the identity of the next 2e2 or Comet.
But one credit insurer I spoke to this week had some concerns that certain parts of the market – including cloud – could be overheating and should be treated with slight caution.
I remember the boss of a large reseller telling me in the wake of 2e2's demise he thought the 'next 2e2' would be a buy-and-build operator in the cloud market. He was convinced some of these providers were getting neck deep in debt without sufficient sales to show for it.
Two years on, and those concerns have been echoed by Atradius, possibly the largest credit insurer in the UK channel with an IT book that has an aggregate value of £2.5bn.
While stressing it is open to increasing its penetration of the IT market, Atradius said it is keeping a "close eye" on cloud providers that have invested large sums upfront in their systems but are still waiting for volume sales to materialise.
"You need to have critical mass and to get enough customers to pay back the money for the equipment, which is really expensive upfront. And they've been a little bit slower on taking up these facilities, is the feedback we're getting," said Atradius' senior underwriter, Arwel Roberts.
UK corporate insolvencies are at an historically low level, with casualties in the IT sector also much less frequent than five years ago. Atradius said claims from within its electronics portfolio – which includes IT – have made up just three per cent of the total UK number in the first five months of 2015, despite representing 10 per cent of its total book.
But by and large, insolvencies are bigger and more destructive than they were five years ago, with 2e2 alone leaving behind £257m of debt, 90 per cent of which it never paid back. KMS Components and Comet also left creditors and insurers severely out of pocket, while Atradius admitted it will pay out an "eight-figure sum" in claims for Phones 4u, which went under last autumn.
Such was the scale of the KMS and Phones 4u insolvencies, Atradius' electronics portfolio made up a whopping 60 per cent of total claims last year.
This means the stakes involved in avoiding insolvencies in the channel are much higher than a few years ago, both for insurers and for suppliers that have extended credit without insurance.
The rise of cloud has been impressive. Some 30 per cent of spending on IT infrastructure has already gone the way of the cloud, according to IDC, and only a fool would deny this is the way the market is going, albeit steadily.
But as the recent price wars between Amazon, Google and Microsoft have shown, parts of the cloud market are a scale game, where it's easy for the costs involved to outstrip expenses. Cloud is a market where some companies' losses have been higher than their sales. The bet is that the early investment that goes in will be recouped, but inevitably not all will make the grade.
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