No deterioration of payment delays despite the impact of COVID except in China
Improved economic conditions in 2021 contributed to a notable fall in the duration of payment delays across Asia-Pacific, dropping from 68 days on average in 2020 to 54 days in 2021, the lowest level in 5 years. The share of respondents experiencing overdue payment remained stable at 64% vs. 65% in the previous year. Among the nine economies covered, payment delays shortened the most in Malaysia and Singapore. By contrast, China was the only country that recorded a rise in payment delays, and also was the country with the longest average payment delay.
However, the survey highlighted some concerns. The share of respondents that mentioned an increase in the amount of overdue went up to 35% in 2021, against 31% in the preceding year. Furthermore, more companies reported ultra-long payment delays (ULPDs) of more than 10% of annual turnover, with this increase driven largely by China where the already high share of 27% in 2020 grew to 40% in 2021. The proportion of ULPDs slightly rose in Australia and India, while it stabilized or declined in the other six economies, with a significant drop in Hong Kong. The large majority of ULPDs are never paid, and therefore, cash-flow risks tend to increase when these ULPDs account for over 2% of a company’s annual turnover.
Sector-wise, the increase in companies experiencing ULPDs of more than 10% was particularly marked in the metals sector, for which it increased by 14 pp to nearly 23%, the largest registered among the 13 sectors. Other sector such as construction, ICT, transport and textile also face significant cash flow risks, with more than 30% of companies that experienced ULPDs reporting that such delays represented more than 2% of annual turnover.
Economic Expectations: Sustained optimism but high concern on rising material prices
Overall, optimism remains intact, with 71% of respondents expecting economic growth to improve in 2022. This optimism was, however, unequal across the region. Singapore is more optimistic compared to the Asia average, with 83% (+17 pp) anticipating higher growth. Companies in Japan and Thailand, where the recovery was relatively subdued in 2021 and therefore with a greater scope for a stronger recovery in 2022, showed more confidence as well, both rising by 14 pp to 75% and 80%, respectively. By contrast, this share was only 44% in Malaysia, showing a significant decline (-29 pp) as compared to last year amid rising political uncertainty, with the possibility of a snap general election in 2022.