A new report from Experian points to improvement in business performance in most categories in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 compared with the previous quarter.

Risk scores remained relatively flat across all industry groups and geographic regions in the quarterly comparison, as well as the year-over-year comparison. The largest businesses (those with more than 1,000 employees) showed the greatest quarter-over-quarter improvement (2.2%) but the largest decline (14.7%) year over year, according to Experian's Q4 Business Benchmark Report.

The average commercial risk score in December 2011 was 57.4. This metric remained relatively stable over the Q4 2011 time period and over the previous year. The average score is based on a scale of 1 to 100 (with 100 being least risky) and predicts the likelihood of severe delinquency (more than 91 days past due) within the next 12 months.

Quarter over quarter, all regions showed a slight improvement in commercial risk score, with the Southeast showing the greatest improvement at 1.2%. When compared with the previous year, the Southeast and Plains businesses showed the greatest decline in commercial risk score decreasing by as much as 3.5%.

Days beyond terms (DBT) appears to be stabilizing quarter over quarter, across all business sizes, industry groups and geographic regions. However, DBT remains negative year over year, increasing by as much as 13.8%.

The percentage of dollars delinquent has remained relatively flat quarter over quarter, with the exception of larger businesses (those with 250 or more employees) that have shown significant improvements, reducing their debt by as much as 11%. Performance in this category varies quarter over quarter by industry sector and geographic region.

Year over year, the change in percentage of dollars delinquent varies across all business sizes. Notably, midsize businesses (those with 250 to 499 employees) saw the greatest positive change, improving by 35.9%.

"The general stabilization and signs of improvement seen in Q4 are encouraging. No matter what the business size, industry or geographic region, having a strong risk score, paying bills on time and reducing delinquent debt are important elements to achieving a positive business profile," says Allen Anderson, president, Experian's Business Information Services. "Building and maintaining positive credit is critical to a business's success, because it helps them obtain more favorable payment terms or interest rates."

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