The quantity of debts that was written down by U.K. lenders swelled to a record high in the final quarter of last year, driven largely by writeoffs of loans to companies, data from the Bank of England showed.

Lenders wrote down $7.9 billion of loans overall between October and December, more than $6.5 billion in the third quarter, and the largest amount since records began in 1993.

That also took the annual amount of loans written off to $24.1 billion in 2009, far higher than $13.9 billion in 2008.

The data, released Monday, showed that writedowns of loans to companies increased to $3.6 billion, versus $2 billion in the previous quarter, and took the 2009 total to $8.9 billion, from $3 billion in 2008.

Writedowns on loans to unincorporated businesses rose to $170.8 million from $113.8 million.

There was better news on the consumer side of the lending business, with writedowns on mortgage loans slowing to $307.1 million in the fourth quarter from $394 million in the third, and writedowns on credit card loans falling to $1.3 billion from $2.3 billion.

The increase in corporate bad debts comes despite a decline in the number of company liquidations in England and Wales, with earlier figures from the government's Insolvency Service showing a 1.1% year-over-year decrease in the fourth quarter.

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