The West Midlands saw a fifth more business insolvencies in February than the same month last year.

Some 172 firms in the region were unable to repay their debts last month, according to information services provider Experian.

The company said this was 0.11 per cent of the business population in the West Midlands, an increase of 0.02 per cent on the same month last year.

Overall business insolvencies across the UK increased from 0.08 per cent to 0.10 per cent year on year, but with medium sized firms demonstrating the greatest resilience during February.

Businesses with 51 to 100 employees saw a significant fall in insolvency rates year on year, from 0.20 per cent to 0.12 per cent.

The increase in the overall insolvency rate was led by medium to large sized firms, 101 to 500 employees, which saw a rise from 0.12 per cent in February last year to 0.17 per cent this year.

Max Firth from Experian said: “Although business insolvencies increased slightly in February, our data is showing that UK business balance sheets have been improving gradually since August.

“Any increase in insolvencies among medium and large businesses highlights a riskier environment, particularly for the smaller firms that supply to them.

“Our insolvency figures underline the importance for smaller businesses to take as much care as their larger counterparts do when checking the creditworthiness of suppliers and customers before doing businesses with them.”

The pharmaceuticals industry experienced the biggest increase in its insolvency rate compared to February 2011 and had the highest rate of insolvencies during February compared to any other sector.

Of the UK’s five biggest industries – business services, building and construction, property, IT and leisure and hotels – building and construction saw the biggest annual increase in its insolvency rate, from 0.17 per cent to 0.21 per cent.