Western Europe: bracing for heightened insolvency risk

Payment Practices Barometer

  • Austria,
  • Belgium,
  • Denmark,
  • France,
  • Germany,
  • Greece,
  • Ireland,
  • Italy,
  • Netherlands,
  • Spain,
  • Sweden,
  • United Kingdom
  • Agriculture,
  • Automotive/Transport,
  • Chemicals/Pharma,
  • Construction,
  • Consumer Durables,
  • Electronics/ICT,
  • Food,
  • Machines/Engineering,
  • Metals,
  • Services,
  • Steel,
  • Textiles

24th November 2021

Global insolvencies are expected to climb 33% in 2022. All major regions should be affected. Businesses should brace for higher insolvency risks.


Atradius conducts annual reviews of international corporate payment practices through a survey called the ‘Atradius Payment Practices Barometer’. This year’s survey results show businesses in all major regions worldwide, including Western Europe, are poised for the next stage of the pandemic. Most countries can expect government stimulus programs to end and insolvency courts to reopen in 2022. Delayed insolvencies from 2020 and 2021, along with new ones, are expected to drive a heightened insolvency risk environment with rising payment defaults in most observed markets. In response to the anticipated pressures and costs of late payments expected next year, appetite for credit insurance across Europe is growing.

Key takeaways from the report

  • 53% of the total value of all B2B invoices in Western Europe were reported overdue this
    year, an increase on last year’s 47%. Write-offs also increased, from 7% to 10% of the total value of invoices in the region.
  • In response to a deteriorating insolvency risk environment, 90% of the businesses we polled across Western Europe told us they had taken protective measures to avoid pressure on their liquidity caused by late payments. Many businesses adopted a range of measures, and did not confine themselves to a single approach.
  • Businesses that reported resorting to in-house management of customer credit risk, by setting aside bad debt reserves to mitigate the adverse impact of potential losses, told us they incurred increased credit management, collection and financing costs over the past year. Additionally, nearly half of these told us they experienced deterioration of DSO over the same time frame.
  • This may explain why a sizeable number of these told us they decided to use trade credit insurance as a cost-effective alternative to retaining credit risk in-house.
  • Looking into 2022, nearly 80% of the businesses we spoke to across Western Europe expressed optimism and predicted growth. However, businesses also acknowledge that downside risks remain. The primary risk concerns the pandemic and its impacts on both domestic and global economies.
  • Perhaps in recognition of a further deterioration of the insolvency risk environment next year, 56% of businesses indicated an appetite for strategic credit management. This by outsourcing credit risks through the increased use of trade credit insurance.
  • Interestingly, based on survey responses across the region, adoption of digital technologies gains momentum across markets in Western Europe.  Digital transformations are rapidly becoming a vital tool for business communication, trade and credit management.

Interested in getting to know more?

The Payment Practices Barometer report for Western Europe gives insights into B2B payment practices and businesses' approach to the management of customer credit risk in the following countries:

For a complete overview of the survey results in each of the countries surveyed, please download the dedicated country reports available in the Publications section of this website. The regional report for Western Europe and the related Statistical Appendix is available free to download in the Related documents section below.

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