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SMEs pay their bills quickest

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Small businesses are the quickest to repay their bills, according to new data from Experian.

Across the economy the average business has been paying its bills within 24.58 days in the previous quarter, which is one day later than in the same quarter last year.

Companies with less than 500 employees pay their bills slightly earlier than average, at 24.16 days beyond terms. But for businesses with more than 500 employees this number goes up to almost 35 days.

Max Firth, UK MD for Experian’s Business Information Services division, says: “Between March 2009 and June 2012, the UK’s largest firms saw the biggest improvements in their payment performance – falling by 12 days over this period. No other size of business saw such levels of improvement.

“Although these firms are still paying their suppliers faster than they were in 2009, the slowdown in payment over the past 12 months will be felt by the wider supply chain.

“These firms deal with hundreds of suppliers across multiple sites, numerous departments and hundreds of employees, so bringing their payment performance in line with smaller firms is a real challenge.”

The issue of late payments is hugely controversial of late, as large firms have been accused of failing to pay their small suppliers, putting the financial health of many SMEs in jeopardy. Last year small firms were owed more than £36bn in late payments.

Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary, last month called for action to be taken over the issue after it was revealed that three quarters of businesses have suffered from being paid late in the past year. 

He said: “Over 4,000 businesses have needlessly gone bust since 2008 due to late payments and these statistics underline just how pressing this problem still is for small businesses. As well as the scale of the amounts owed and length of waiting times, it is deeply concerning that so many companies are being forced to write off invoices.”

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