Nearly half a million businesses in the UK ended 2017 in a state of 'significant' financial distress, according to Begbies Traynor's latest Rd Flag report.
It said research for Q4 showed that 493,296 businesses were experiencing 'significant' financial distress - up 36% compared to the corresponding period in 2016 and 10% higher than the previous quarter (Q3 2017: 448,011).
Geographically, the region with the most affected businesses was London, where 121,528 companies ended the period in a state of 'significant' financial distress, up 13% on Q4 2016; representing 25% of businesses in distress nationally.
Executive chairman Ric Traynor said: 'Prolonged exchange rate weakness undoubtedly hit some businesses hard last year and despite a recent recovery in Sterling, this improvement is yet to feed through in terms of any widespread recovery in corporate health.
'Meanwhile, the impact of continued political and economic uncertainty surrounding the ongoing Brexit negotiations cannot be underestimated.
'Looking forward, UK growth is widely expected to be sluggish again in 2018, so it's important that companies focus on staff engagement and business efficiency, in line with the Government's push for productivity this year.
'For the thousands of businesses now showing signs of financial ill health, prudent cost management, sustained improvements in productivity, and finding innovative ways to stay ahead of the competition will be critical to surviving beyond the next 12 months.'