The profitability of British companies fell sharply during the second half of 1999, according to Experian's latest Corporate Health Check.

The information company's measure of profitability – the average return on capital – fell for the third consecutive quarter, to 13.14% after peaking at 14.18% in the first quarter. The economic downturn said to be caused by wage inflation, high sterling and rising interest rates is spreading across all parts of the economy, particularly the service sector.