UK businesses paid their bills nearly 1.3 days earlier in the third quarter of 2012, compared to the same period last year, according to Experian.
The credit reference agency’s late payment index showed that companies still took 24.88 days after the agreed terms to settle payments in July to September this year, although this was down on the 26.17 days a year earlier.
The difference in late payments between the UK’s smallest businesses and its largest firms has been shrinking since the fourth quarter of 2011, from nearly 20 days during 2009 to under 12 days this year.
Max Firth, UK managing director of Experian’s business information services division, said: “This is a sign of improved behaviour amongst larger businesses.
“Understanding how quickly clients are paying their invoices provides firms with an early warning sign of potential issues, so that they can plan for any debt or work with firms that are struggling.”
Businesses in the food retailing and food manufacturing industries saw the most significant improvements, according to Experian.
Food retailers paid their bills 29.15 days beyond the agreed terms, compared to 34.21 in the same period in 2011, while food manufacturers settled payment 22.91 days late, down from 27.07 days a year ago.
But Firth warned that a slight increase in payment performance in the third quarter to 24.88 days from 23.46 days between April and June 2012 could indicate potential cashflow issues.