SMEs beware: these are the worst countries to do business with

A new league table reveals the best and worst countries in the G20 for growing businesses to trade with. Let this be a cautionary tale.

Saudi Arabia and Greece are at the very bottom of a new league table highlighting the ‘worst’ countries in the G20 for UK firms to do business with.

On a global scale, the Middle Eastern oil behemoth tops the ‘worst’ list, while Greece retains the title within the EU.

The findings, compiled by business information provider Creditsafe, shows Saudi Arabian businesses pay bills to their UK counterparts later than any other G20 country, at an average of 92 days beyond terms (DBT).

Creditsafe used its trade payment data databases to analyse over 283,000 UK invoices for companies across all 18 of the G20 countries outside of the UK. The results show that on average, it takes 19 DBT for a company from a G20 country to settle invoices with UK businesses.

The best G20 countries to trade with based on the findings are Brazil and Argentina, with Brazilian companies taking an average of just one DBT to pay UK firms, and Argentinean businesses paying UK firms two DBT on average.

By way of comparison, UK businesses take an average of 13 DBT to pay their fellow G20 partners, with 30 days being the average standard payment terms set by UK businesses.

“While clearly there are a vast number of factors that UK businesses should take into consideration before trading overseas, our findings do highlight one particularly critical aspect in terms of speed of payment. We advise that all businesses carry out thorough checks on all of the potential companies they will be working with, both here at home as well as abroad,” Rachel Mainwaring, operations director at Creditsafe commented.

“UK firms are continually looking to identify new regions to expand operations into and businesses on the ground to work with, which is something we would absolutely encourage. However, we would always caveat this by advising that businesses use all of the information available through reports such as ours to make the most informed choices on who to work with.”

Creditsafe ran additional research looking into all member countries of the EU in its analysis. Of these, Greece emerged as the worst country for UK companies to do business with, with businesses taking an average of 78 DBT to pay.

This compares to an average of 20 days across all other EU countries outside of the UK, with Austria ranked as the best country to do business with at 7 DBT to settle invoices on average.

Table 1: G20 countries ranked by the speed with which they pay UK companies

CountryAverage Days Beyond Terms

  • Brazil 1
  • Argentina 2
  • Canada 2
  • Mexico 2
  • Turkey 3
  • USA 6
  • Indonesia 9
  • Australia 11
  • South Korea 11
  • China 14
  • Russia 14
  • Germany 15
  • France 16
  • Japan 19
  • Italy 21
  • South Africa 49
  • India 55
  • Saudi Arabia 92

Table 2: EU countries ranked by the speed with which they pay UK companies

CountryAverage Days Beyond Terms

  • Austria 7
  • Finland 8
  • Poland 8
  • Slovakia 9
  • Spain 12
  • Croatia 13
  • Denmark 13
  • Luxembourg 14
  • Sweden 14
  • Belgium 15
  • Czech Republic 15
  • Germany 15
  • France 16
  • Portugal 16
  • Ireland 17
  • Bulgaria 18
  • Netherlands 18
  • Latvia 20
  • Hungary 21
  • Italy 21
  • Lithuania 22
  • Romania 22
  • Estonia 23
  • Slovenia 26
  • Cyprus 42
  • Malta 43
  • Greece 78

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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