• While debt collection globally is becoming slightly less complex, it is still a major problem for businesses around the world
  • Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and the UAE are the countries where it is most difficult to collect debt, according to our expert analysis
  • Around $4.2trn is at risk in countries where debt collection is most complex

Surging inflation is an increasing global problem, causing central banks to tighten their monetary policies and raising financing costs, putting companies at greater risk of insolvency.

The UK is certainly seeing a rise in insolvencies. According to latest government figures there were 4,896 (seasonally adjusted) registered company insolvencies during Q1 2022, 6% more than in Q4 2021 and more than double the number for Q1 2021.

Our experts warned of a dimming economic outlook in our mid-year review, and in this context, UK companies may find that recovering debt will become even more important, and even more of a challenge, particularly when the debtor is overseas.

Expert global analysis

In the third edition of the Allianz Trade Collection Complexity Score and Rating, our experts have analysed local payment practices, court proceedings and insolvency frameworks in 49 countries to identify where it is most difficult to collect debt. They warn that around $4.2tn is at risk in those countries where debt collection is most complex.

The scores are of particular value to firms starting their export journey, allowing them to choose markets where, if the worst happens, debts can be recovered.

Maxime Lemerle, Lead Analyst for Insolvency Research at Allianz Trade, noted: “Collecting debt is critical, especially in an environment where business insolvencies are set to rise.”

The good news is that debt recovery in many traditional UK export markets is marked as ‘notable’, the most straightforward category (which is followed on our scale by ‘high’, ‘very high’ and ‘severe’).

Analysis shows that currently Sweden, Germany and Finland are the three best countries to recover international debt in the world, while it is much harder for foreign companies to recover their dues in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

Collection complexity is improving gradually around the world – helped by the pandemic, which accelerated reforms of insolvency frameworks in some countries. However, more than a quarter of countries analysed still fall into the ‘very high’ category of collection complexity, and one in five countries ‘severe’.

In the UK’s ‘Golden 8’ list – which mixes top UK export destinations with some key markets where post-Brexit trade deal is signed or likely – there are three ‘notable’ scores and only one is ‘severe’, the worst category.  

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  Category

Score (lower is better)

Germany Notable 30
Netherlands Notable 32
New Zealand Notable 36
France Notable 36
Japan High 44
Australia

Very high

55
USA

Very high

55
China Severe 71

Complexity of recovering business debt in the Golden 8

 

Debt collection in the UK and beyond

The UK is one of six countries (along with Australia, Colombia, Japan, Ireland and New Zealand) that have seen their debt collection complexity scores deteriorate slightly since our previous reviews.

On average, the Middle East, Asia and Africa are the most complex regions for debt collection.

It’s interesting to note that the largest economies, most dynamic markets, or less vulnerable countries (in terms of country risk), do not necessarily create a better business environment. Pockets of collection complexity exist in all countries in three key areas: local payment practices, local court proceedings, and local insolvency proceedings.

While 88% of Western European countries are at the lowest ‘notable’ level of collection complexity (Greece and Italy are both ‘high’), surprisingly, the USA (the UK’s largest export market) and Canada, both rank ‘very high’ for complexity, primarily because of their multi-level systems (e.g. county, state and federal structure) and the lack of efficiency in recovering unsecured debt.

Exporters’ exposure to debt collection complexity

Combining countries’ collection complexity scores with their share of trading partners, reveals exporters’ exposure to international debt-collection complexity.

Finland, Austria and Norway are least exposed, while Asia has seven of the most exposed countries and regions (Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and India) – a cautionary note for firms targeting these markets for growth outside the European Union.

The UK and Ireland both sit in the top 15 of least exposed countries in our exporters’ debt collection complexity score and ratings, falling into the lowest, ‘notable’ range.  However, the UK’s overall rating is damaged by the complexity of its insolvency regime.

International debt collection varies between countries and its complexity depends on many different factors.

At a global level, our analysis shows that the biggest factor affecting how difficult it is for businesses to collect debt, is by far the local insolvency proceedings – and this is true in all regions. On average, this contributes to half of the collection complexity of countries.

Debt recovery problems

The biggest issue for UK exporters – mentioned for almost all potential markets – is the low probability of recovering a debt as an unsecured creditor in practice when liquidation proceedings have begun.

Court-related issues are the second highest source of complexity at the global level, according to our experts, and one of the most frequent issues remains the lack of regional frameworks offering harmonized fast-track proceedings, with a lack of flexibility in relation to reciprocity when enforcing a foreign decision.

The difficulty of enforcing domestic judgments, and the restrictiveness of appeal proceedings, are also becoming a larger issue in an increasing number of countries.

Other top difficulties for debt collection globally include the low level of payment culture – a factor in almost eight out of 10 countries – and payment terms.

To find out more about global debt collection risks download the full pdf below: