Liquidation and Insolvency


Liquidation is the process by which a company is brought to an end, and the assets and property of the company are redistributed. Liquidation is also sometimes referred to as winding-up or dissolution, although dissolution technically refers to the last stage of liquidation. The process of liquidation also arises when customs, an authority or agency in a country responsible for collecting and safeguarding customs duties, determines the final computation or ascertainment of the duties or drawback accruing on an entry.

Liquidation may either be compulsory (sometimes referred to as a creditors’ liquidation) or voluntary (sometimes referred to as a shareholders’ liquidation, although some voluntary liquidations are controlled by the creditors, see below).

In addition, the term “liquidation” is sometimes used when a company wants to divest itself of some of its assets. This is used, for instance, when a retail establishment wants to close stores. They will sell to a company that specializes in store liquidation instead of attempting to run a store closure sale themselves.

Insolvency is the state of being unable to pay the money owed, by a person or company, on time; those in a state of insolvency are said to be insolvent. There are two forms: cash-flow insolvency and balance-sheet insolvency.

Cash-flow insolvency is when a person or company has enough assets to pay what is owed, but does not have the appropriate form of payment. For example, a person may own a large house and a valuable car, but not have enough liquid assets to pay a debt when it falls due. Cash-flow insolvency can usually be resolved by negotiation. For example, the bill collector may wait until the car is sold and the debtor agrees to pay a penalty.

Balance-sheet insolvency is when a person or company does not have enough assets to pay all of their debts. The person or company might enter bankruptcy, but not necessarily. Once a loss is accepted by all parties, negotiation is often able to resolve the situation without bankruptcy.

A company that is balance-sheet insolvent may still have enough cash to pay its next bill on time. However, most laws will not let the company pay that bill unless it will directly help all their creditors. For example, an insolvent farmer may be allowed to hire people to help harvest the crop, because not harvesting and selling the crop would be worse for his creditors.