FIRMS in Singapore are taking an average of 43 days to pay their bills - the longest period since 2012, according to DP Information Group.

But while creditors have to wait longer for their money after the due date, DP senior general manager Ong Siew Kim said there is no cause for alarm.

"DP Info's analysis shows the deterioration in payment behaviour is not across all industries," she added.

The quarterly study used payment data collected from more than 120,000 firms across 14 industries.

It found that the number of days a firm took to pay creditors once debts were due had increased from 39 days in the last quarter to 43 days in the three months to Mar 31.

The percentage of total debts deemed "severely delinquent" - still unpaid 90 days after they were due - rose from 18 per cent to 29 per cent in the same period.

Ms Ong pointed to construction and credit-related companies as the main culprits for the overall increase.

Credit-related companies, which include personal- and commercial-finance providers and unsecured moneylenders, took an average of 78 days to pay their bills after the due date in the first quarter of this year, well up on the 33-day average in the final quarter of last year.

However, the increase may only be seasonal as the industry had experienced large jumps in the first quarter before, said Ms Ong.

"Many people find that they overspend during the festive period between Christmas and Chinese New Year, causing them to delay payments to creditors," she noted.

"This, in turn, places pressure on the cash flow and debt payment patterns of the lenders."

Construction companies took almost double the amount of time to pay up, from 32 days to 61 days in the same period, possibly because firms were adjusting to changes as large government infrastructure projects came to an end.

One construction leader explained that the industry may be "catching its breath after several boom years" and companies are managing their cash flow while waiting for new work.

Not all the news is bad. Out of the 14 industries tracked, 10 showed improvements in debt payment. These included the health care, hotel and restaurant, and marine industries.

The retail sector had the best showing, with the average number of days for debt payment falling from 63 in the final quarter of last year to 45 in the first quarter of this year.


Background story

CASH FLOW ISSUE

Many people find that they overspend during the festive period between Christmas and Chinese New Year, causing them to delay payments to creditors. This, in turn, places pressure on the cash flow and debt payment patterns of the lenders.

- Ms Ong Siew Kim, senior general manager at DP Info