Singapore firms' payment performance improves slightly in Q1

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – The payment performance of local firms improved in the first quarter of 2021, albeit marginally, the Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau (SCCB) said on Tuesday (April 6).

Occurrences of prompt payment in the first quarter rose 1.21 percentage points to 42.5 per cent, from 41.29 per cent the quarter before. Year on year, prompt payment was down 0.7 percentage point to 42.5 per cent.

On the other hand, occurrences of slow payment increased by 0.5 percentage point to 43.08 per cent in the first quarter, up from 42.6 per cent last year, but showed a small 0.07 percentage point dip from 43.15 per cent in the previous quarter.

Partial payments fell marginally by 1.14 percentage points from 15.56 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, but overall rose by 3.42 percentage points to 14.42 per cent year on year.

Prompt payment refers to when 90 per cent or more of total bills are paid within the agreed payment terms, while slow payment happens when less than 50 per cent of total bills are paid within the agreed terms. Partial payment refers to when between 50 per cent and 90 per cent of total bills are paid within the agreed payment terms.

The manufacturing, wholesale trade and construction sectors saw a dip in slow payments quarter on quarter, while the retail and services sectors recorded a rise.

Similar to the previous quarter, the construction sector registered the highest proportion of slow payments, which accounted for more than half of payment transactions in the first quarter of 2021.

SCCB chief executive officer Audrey Chia said that the improvement in payment among local firms should “come as no surprise despite tapering off slightly in the first quarter of 2021”.

She attributed this to the slight increase in payment delays among retailers and the services sector, which has to offset the decrease in slow payments from the construction, manufacturing and wholesale sectors.

“We anticipate payment performance to improve further with a pickup in momentum of economic activities in the next few months,” Ms Chia added.

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