Global trade: International receivables management relies on country-specific expertise

International receivables increasing across Europe / Payment delays no more frequent for overseas invoices than for domestic invoices

Hamburg, 11 December 2018 – Global links at the economic level are on the increase. According to the ifo Institute for Economic Research, international goods trading in the whole of Europe has reached a peak, and Germany is at the forefront with the world's largest current account surplus. In combination with the spread of digitalization, this is resulting in a greater percentage of foreign customers, and consequently, a greater proportion of international receivables. Currently, 14 percent of all invoices across Europe are being issued to customers overseas, compared with 12 percent a year ago. These are some of the findings of the 'European Payment Practices' survey commissioned by the EOS Group, which conducted a poll of 3,400 companies in 17 countries. However, global customers are not regarded as being less reliable than domestic customers. 26 percent of those polled who have international receivables actually think that foreign customers pay late less often than domestic customers. This is two percent up on the figure for 2017. But 16 percent think the opposite is true and that their international clientele pays late more often.

It is primarily the Internet that is making it possible for consumers to order goods across borders. This also results in an increase in the number of invoices and receivables going overseas. At 39 percent, Slovenia currently has the highest proportion of these, followed by Denmark at 25 percent and Germany at 22 percent. For the major economies of the UK and France, the totals are just 11 and 10 percent respectively.

According to the survey, every fourth company in Europe (25 percent) assumes that there will be a significant increase in the number of international invoices in the next two years. In the case of an exporting country like Germany in particular, trading relations with other countries are of course especially strong. In Germany, more than 37 percent of respondents assume that the number of foreign receivables will grow until 2020. In Slovenia and Greece, 37 percent of companies also think this will be the case, in Denmark 31 percent and in the UK 27 percent.

Companies need expertise to deal with late payers overseas

“These figures underline that working with a service provider can be crucial in future for international receivables management in particular,” says Klaus Engberding, CEO of the EOS Group. “These specialists are familiar with the legal system in the particular country and have local experts on hand so that there is no language barrier.” There are certain decisive details that can have a substantial impact on the effort involved. For example, in some countries it is necessary to have local legal assistance or invoices and contracts need to be translated into the language of the country as evidence for valid receivables.

Companies in many countries in Europe have a large proportion of foreign customers. And just like domestic customers, some of them can also fall behind with payments. In a European comparison, German companies had the largest proportion of international customers that do not pay on time (32 percent). Only Danish companies, at 32 percent, have problems on a similar scale. In the UK, on the other hand, only 9 percent had such problems. In Eastern Europe, Slovenian companies are facing the greatest challenges, with 21 percent indicating that their foreign customers were more likely to be late payers than their domestic customers. Admittedly, Slovenia also has the highest number of international receivables. Conversely, the majority of companies in Eastern Europe have almost exclusively had a good experience with their international business. On average, 30 percent indicated that such deals were less likely to end in delayed payment than in the case of domestic business. Russian companies in particular say that customers in their own country are more often behind with payments than foreign customers (48 percent compared with 2 percent).

About the survey
The EOS Survey 'European Payment Practices' was conducted for the 11th time. In spring 2018, in partnership with independent market research institute Kantar TNS (formerly TNS Infratest), EOS polled 3,400 companies with at least 20 employees and an annual turnover of EUR 5 million in 17 different countries about the payment practices in their respective locations, economic developments in their countries and issues relating to risk and receivables management.

The EOS Group
The EOS Group is one of the leading international providers of customized financial services. As a specialist in the evaluation and processing of receivables EOS deploys new technologies to offer its some 20,000 customers in 26 countries financial security through smart services. The company's core business is the purchase of unsecured and secured debt portfolios. Working within an international network of partner companies, the EOS Group has a workforce of around 7,500 and more than 60 subsidiaries, so it can access resources in more than 180 countries. Its key target sectors are banking, utilities, real estate and e-commerce.
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