Firms struggled to pay bills on time last year

Firms have been dragging their feet on settling their bills, with slow payments hitting a five-year high last year amid a weaker economy, the Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau said yesterday.

Prompt payments accounted for less than 50 per cent of total transactions in all four quarters last year, while slow ones made up more than 40 per cent, its data showed.

Prompt payments are those where at least 90 per cent of a bill is paid within the agreed terms. In slow payments, more than 50 per cent of the outstanding amount comes in after the deadline.

Overall, slow payments reached 44.7 per cent of all payments made last year, the highest proportion since 2011. And the proportion of prompt payments also tumbled to a five-year low, at 43.8 per cent.

The credit bureau compiles quarterly figures by monitoring more than 1.6 million payment transactions of firms.

In the three months to Dec 31, prompt payments fell to 45.9 per cent of payments overall, from 53.1 per cent in the same period in 2015.

Delayed bill settlements accounted for 43.3 per cent of overall payments in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 35.4 per cent before.

Delays in paying up continued to rise broadly across all industries in the fourth quarter, and were most prevalent in the construction sector for four months running.

Construction's weaker performance - slow payments made up 48 per cent of all transactions - was due mainly to bad debts by firms within the heavy construction sub-sector, the credit bureau said.

The retail sector reported the second-highest proportion of payment delays in the fourth quarter, or 46.7 per cent of all transactions.

Marissa Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline 'Firms struggled to pay bills on time last year'. Print Edition | Subscribe