Manufacturers here most improved in paying debt: Study

Manufacturing companies are enjoying sustained growth, leading to better cash flow and creditworthiness. With more cash in the bank, they are settling their debts faster, which also bodes well for their suppliers.
Manufacturing companies are enjoying sustained growth, leading to better cash flow and creditworthiness. With more cash in the bank, they are settling their debts faster, which also bodes well for their suppliers.PHOTO: REUTERS

Sector cuts 14 days off average time a firm takes to pay up; retailers taking 22 more days

Manufacturing has made the most improvement of any industry when it comes to paying creditors.

The sector has slashed 14 days off the average time a company takes to pay a debt - from 42 days in the second quarter of 2016 to 28 days in the same quarter this year.

By contrast, it takes retailers 36 days to pay up now, an increase of about 157 per cent from 14 days in 2016, according to DP Information Group's analysis of the payment data of about 120,000 companies.

Mr James Gothard, general manager of credit services and strategy, South-east Asia, at Experian, the parent firm of DP Info, said the manufacturing sector is on an upswing and its strong performance is fuelling quicker settlement of debts.

"Singapore is enjoying a manufacturing renaissance with double-digit growth year-on-year," he noted. "Led by the biomedical and electronics sectors, manufacturing companies are enjoying the type of growth other sectors can only be envious of."

He said sustained growth has led to better cash flow and creditworthiness among manufacturers. With more cash in the bank, they are settling their debts faster, which also bodes well for their suppliers.

Retail companies have had a far different fate over the past three years, as the sector struggles with rising manpower and rental costs, combined with the growth of online shopping.

These factors have led to thinning margins and cash flow pressures, which explain why retailers are increasingly slower in paying back the money they owe, Mr Gothard said.

"There are signs of a pick-up in the retail sector with overall sales edging up 2.2 per cent in May, and the Government's recently announced Industry Transformation Map promises to drive the sector towards the cutting-edge of digital commerce," he added.

"While they may be slower in payment, retail companies have the lowest level of severely delinquent debt, with just 6 per cent of money owed still unpaid after 90 days.

"So if an SME is worried about a retail company that owes it money, it should join an SME credit bureau. That way it will get an early warning if the debtor company's payment behaviour deteriorates," Mr Gothard said.

Two other sectors have also shown improvements in payment behaviour: the information and communications segment now pays its debts 13 days faster than three years ago, while services firms pay up 12 days faster.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2018, with the headline 'Manufacturers here most improved in paying debt: Study'. Print Edition | Subscribe