After an inauspicious start to the year, UK businesses appeared to be slowly shaking off the blight of late payment culture as 2009 drew to a close, with IT firms leading the way.
Figures from credit services specialist Experian reveal that companies across the country were paying their bills an average of 20.88 days beyond agreed terms in December. This represents a year-on-year drop of 11.3 per cent from the 2008 figure of 23.54 days.
However, across the entire year, UK Plc's bills were paid an average of 22.79 days late, compared to 21.51 days the previous year. Firms in the south west were 2009's promptest payers, coughing up 18.01 days beyond terms. Companies based in the capital had the worst record, settling bills an average of 26.95 days late.
The IT sector housed the UK's most improved payers, with 2009 payments made 23.37 days late on average, 20 per cent down on 2008's figure of 29.2. Across all sectors, firms with upwards of 501 employees also posted significant improvement. The UK's largest enterprises were paying their bills 28.97 days late in December, down from 36.1 at the start of the year.
Joe Myers, head of commercial credit at Experian’s Business Information division, said: “The fact that country’s biggest businesses reduced the time it takes to settle their bills by nearly 20 per cent is a significant turnaround. Companies are more aware now than ever that their credit score is affected by their payment behaviour.
"While this enables them to negotiate improved terms as well as raise credit from alternative sources or suppliers, it also means that other businesses can make a more informed decisions about working with them.”
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