The number of business failures in the UK is expected to rise in the next six months, sustaining last year's trend which was the worst for five years.

More than 43,000 companies were made bankrupt or went into liquidation last year, according to Dun & Bradstreet the business rating company.

This was 12% up on 1998 and the highest figure for five years.

Companies employing fewer than 100 people accounted for 85% of all failures.

A regional breakdown of the figures showed the worst failure rates in Wales and the East Midlands where the numbers jumped by 26% and 25% respectively.

In contrast, London recorded a fall of 3.4% in business failures.

In the rest of the South-East, the increase was seven per cent.