Australian businesses continued to settle their invoices at a record pace of 44.1 days on average for the last quarter of 2015. The result is a modest improvement on the previous quarter’s average of 45.1 days, and is six days faster than the same period a year earlier, as revealed by Dun & Bradstreet’s latest Trade Payments Analysis. The result comes on the back of the Reserve Bank’s decision in December to leave the cash rate unchanged at 2.0 per cent for the seventh consecutive month, while consumer sentiment soared to a 22-month high in November before consolidating in December, according to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment.

The final quarter of 2015 also saw 68 per cent of businesses settling their invoices within 1-30 days, compared to 66 per cent in Q3 2015. Meanwhile, slightly fewer businesses opted to pay their bills within the 31-61 day period.

“The further fall in the payments times for the business sector shows that firms are not only cashed up, but confident about their financial position. The record low interest rates set by the RBA are freeing up cash flow and lowering borrowing costs and underpinning a strong performance for corporate Australia,” said Stephen Koukoulas, Economic Advisor to Dun & Bradstreet.

Mr Koukoulas added, “94 per cent of firms are making their payments within 60 days, with all sectors other than Utilities recording shorter payment times in the December quarter. Despite recent market ructions, there is no pressure from the trade payments data to suggest any need for the RBA to cut interest rates again”.

According to Dun & Bradstreet’s December Business Expectations Survey, 48 per cent of businesses would choose to miss a payment to a trade supplier if they were unable to pay all of their bills. The survey found that 28 per cent of businesses have had a customer or supplier become insolvent or otherwise unable to pay them during the past year, down from 35 per cent in the previous quarter. 

Businesses with between 50 and 199 staff settled their invoices at the fastest average rate of 40.2 days, followed closely by those with between 6 and 19 employees, with an average rate of 40.6 days. 

All states and territores recorded marginally faster average payment times compared to Q3 2015, with the Northern Territory experiencing the most improvement with a rate of 39.6 days compared to the previous quarter’s 41.6 days.

The Fishing and Agriculture industries were the only sectors which recorded payment times below 40 days. As with previous years, businesses in the Utilities sector paid their invoices at the slowest rate of 53.2 days – only a marginal improvement on the previous quarter and around 1 day slower than the same period a year earlier.

About Trade Payments Analysis

Business-to-business payment information is a highly predictive data set and a critical element in credit risk scores and business failures forecasting.

The distinct advantage of trade information over other forms of company data is its ability to provide insight into current performance. Company financials, which are considered to be critical to effective decision making, are reported relatively infrequently and as a consequence, organisations may be required to make decisions using data that is up to 12-months old. Conversely, because trade information is reported monthly, it reveals how an organisation is paying its existing obligation.

Trade data is also effective across all business sizes, being the most predictive element in SME scores and the second most predictive (behind financials) in other credit scores. The predictive nature of trade data combined with its timely availability enables businesses to properly assess credit risk.

This includes the identification of both high and low risk customers, thereby enabling firms to minimise the risk of late payments and bad debts and identify the good credit accounts that will create long-term, profitable credit relationships.