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Want paid quickly? Stay north of border

Northern Ireland companies settle their bills five days faster than their counterparts in the Republic, according to new figures from information services firm Experian.

It found that on average, in 2009, Irish businesses settled their bills 25 days beyond credit terms, five days slower than companies in Northern Ireland, which paid on average 20 days beyond terms.

By analysing the payment records of tens of thousands of businesses, Experian said it is able to identify if and, crucially, when they are going to pay their debts.

Irish businesses paid their bills on average 25.33 days beyond terms in the final quarter of 2009, compared with 24.66 days beyond terms in the third quarter.

However, the final quarter figure of 2009 was much improved on the first quarter, when Irish businesses were paying their bills on average 27 days beyond terms.

In comparison, businesses in Northern Ireland paid their bills on average 18.14 days beyond terms in the final quarter of 2009 and 20.41 in the first quarter.

In the Republic, Cavan businesses were the quickest to pay, averaging 21.3 days late, compared to 32.2 days in Waterford.

Paula Carney, payment performance manager at Experian’s Business Information division in Ireland, explains: “Late payments can have very negative consequences for businesses, particularly those small and medium sized enterprises that are already finding it difficult to manage their cash flow in the current economic climate.

“Late payments present an unnecessary administrative burden on businesses and prove to be a real strain on resources when a debtor is using a business as a source of free credit. Many businesses in Ireland have been reviewing their payment policies in light of the current climate, however the practice of extending payment terms to customers is continuing, despite the fact that it is not sustainable in the long- term.”