Burn rates for European Internet companies are improving, with the time before a company runs out of cash now standing at 20 months compared with 13 months last December, according to a report released today.

Among the 150 companies assessed for the report, business-to-consumer companies were the most vulnerable with an average burn rate of 15 months compared to 23 months for business-to-business concerns. The report, carried out by

PricewaterhouseCoopers

and

Fletcher Advisory

, blamed the B2C companies' poor performance on high marketing costs.

A company's burn rate is the length of time it can survive before needing additional cash -- assuming it is not expected to turn a profit in the meantime.

The report, titled PricewaterhouseCoopers Internet 150, covers the top 150 publicly listed European Internet companies with a combined market capitalization of 200 billion euros. It does not name individual companies, however. PWC reckons that "the 20 most vulnerable Internet companies in Europe are at risk of running out of cash within a year, unless they take direct measures to address the issue." Those unnamed companies have a combined market capitalization of 26 billion euros, representing more than 10% of the European market. The report adds that the strongest European Internet companies are those operating in the service and e-commerce sectors, while the weakest are in the content and software sectors.

Geographically, German companies are more secure than their U.K. counterparts with 50% of German Internet companies in the survey profitable compared to 26% of British concerns, the report says. It adds that Germany is becoming the dominant Internet economy in Europe with 56 of the top 150 companies. The U.K. is hot on its heels with 35 of the top 150, followed by the Netherlands and France.

The report also contains an index of the companies' share price performance. On average since January 2000, the PricewaterhouseCoopers Internet 150 has underperformed the

Nasdaq

, the

techMARK

and the

FTSE 100

-- dropping 16 points since the beginning of the year and more than 100 points since March. The B2B companies have considerably outperformed B2C concerns. A portfolio of B2B stocks would have increased in value by 25% since the beginning of the year while a portfolio of B2C stocks would have fallen by 14%.