Unpaid bills, in the accounts receivable column of a company's ledger sheet, were higher at 66 percent of the listed Chinese companies in the third quarter, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.
While an increasing number of customers are not paying bills on time, economist Janet Zhang at GaveKal Dragonomics said some companies "are reluctant to reduce production, so they continue to produce and sell things even when the buyers can't pay the money."
"This is a big difference from 2008, when collapsing demand caused many enterprises to reduce production very significantly," she said.
The trend towards growth of accounts receivable was especially high among construction companies and large equipment firms.
Machinery maker Sany Heavy reported an 83 percent rise in unpaid bills "due to the impact of the macroeconomic environment," the company said in a third quarter report.
That was hardly a record. Unpaid bills rose 169 percent at First Tractor, a company listed on the Shanghai composite index.
Unpaid bills at corporations would be expected at some point to show up in quarterly reports of Chinese banks, but the bad debt to good debt ratio at the end of June was 0.9 percent, near a record low for the past 10-year stretch, beginning when banks in China were recapitalized.
Some market analysts, however, subscribe to the theory Chinese banks are not fully reporting the size of the problem with bad loans, the Times said.