While there is an anticipation of global trade expanding by slightly over 2% in 2024, the pace of growth in Asia is forecasted to remain subdued and may not be as robust as it was in previous years. The key factor inhibiting growth can be attributed to an ongoing underperformance in exports, which is likely to continue in the short-term due to weaker demand from Asia’s main export markets, such as the United States and European Union, and could potentially weaken the domestic resilience shown by Asian economies this year.
One illustration of this is a 6% overall drop in Asian businesses B2B trading on credit over the past year with variations in different markets. Taiwan and Singapore saw significant drops, while China and Vietnam experienced an increase in B2B sales on credit.
However, as Asian businesses look ahead, their optimism about their growth prospects becomes clear, as evidenced by the findings of our survey of companies polled in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam for the 2023 edition of the Atradius Payment Practices Barometer survey for Asia. Our survey revealed that 70% of Asian companies expect rising demand for their products and services in the months ahead.
In addition to expressing optimism about future business growth, our survey revealed a strong commitment among businesses polled in Asia to addressing the challenges posed by deteriorating business-to-business (B2B) payment practices, which are reflective of the vulnerabilities affecting the global economy and marketplace.
While the landscape varies from market to market, a common denominator is, therefore, the widespread attention Asian businesses place on maintaining strong cashflow and liquidity. Robust measures to mitigate cashflow risks are already evident across various Asian economies, notably in China, Japan, and India.
More than 50% of companies in the region told us they increased efforts to collect overdue B2B invoices during the past 12 months, a policy complemented in each market by specific credit risk management tactics. These efforts had a positive impact, with late payments across Asia declining by 12% over the past year, now affecting 44% of all B2B invoiced sales. Bad debts also declined slightly, standing at 5% of all B2B invoiced sales.
Companies in Vietnam, Singapore and China reported success in mitigating the impact of late payments. The survey underscores the adaptability of Asian businesses in the current economic turbulence, emphasizing the importance of thorough risk assessment when trading on credit with B2B customers.
Andreas Tesch, Chief Market Officer of Atradius stated, “The flexible approach to credit management demonstrated by Asian businesses, which involves trade credit insurance for 47% of companies polled, is particularly relevant because it enables them to seize opportunities in a growing market while safeguarding against potential credit-related risks in B2B trade activities. Their ability to integrate trade credit insurance into their risk management framework showcases their resilience and forward-thinking approach to business operations and cash flow risks mitigation.”