UK regulator drops big companies from responsible-payment list

Some of the U.K.’s biggest companies were dropped from the government’s list of responsible small-business customers on Monday, a decision that could undermine their ability to win state contracts.

Five firms were removed from the Prompt Payment Code, an initiative to speed up settlement of invoices owed to suppliers. The companies — including mining conglomerate BHP Group Plc, DHL Worldwide Express and GKN Ltd — were removed “for non-compliance and not providing a plan for how they will meet the terms,” according to a statement from the Chartered Institute of Credit Management, which administers the Code for the government.

A further 12 companies were suspended from the Code, but have committed to “pay suppliers promptly” in the future, according to the statement. Those include builders Balfour Beatty Plc and Persimmon Plc, Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc and telecommunications giant Vodafone Group Plc. Vodafone is invested in a fund that makes money from paying its suppliers early in return for a discount on the full amount owed, Bloomberg reported last month.

“The Board is disappointed with the actions of a minority who continue to treat their suppliers unfairly, and has no satisfaction in having to name them publicly,” CICM chief executive officer Philip King said in the statement.

Starting in “Autumn 2019,” companies that fall short of the Code could be barred from winning state contracts, the government said last November.

(By Thomas Beardsworth and Thomas Seal)