WORKING CAPITAL MANAGEMENT Working capital refers to the firm’s investment in short-term assets (cash,marketable securities, accounts receivable and inventories). Net working capital is thedifference between a firm’s current assets and its current liabilities. Working capitalmanagement involves administering to both short-term assets and short-term liabilities.Assets and liabilities must be matched and coordinated in order to keep costs to aminimum and to control risks. Generally, we want to match the firm’s financing with thelives of its assets. If we consider a company that is growing over time, then its assetscan be decomposed into three categories – fixed assets, permanent current assets andfluctuating current assets. Short-term Fluctuating Current Assets Permanent Current Assets Long-term Fixed Assets Fixed assets should be financed long-term, either equity or long-term debt, sincethe assets are long-lived and need financing for a long period of time. The currentassets can be broken down into two portions, permanent current assets and fluctuatingcurrent assets. The permanent current assets represent base levels of inventories,receivables, etc., that will always be on hand. The fluctuating current assets representthe seasonal build-ups that occur, such as inventories before Christmas and receivablesafter Christmas. The fluctuating current asset levels should be financed short-term sincewe don’t want to pay financing charges all year if we only need the money for a four-month period. While the permanent current assets are, individually, short-lived assets, as acategory they are always there (hence, permanent) and will always need to be financed.Thus, the permanent current assets should also be financed long-term, just like the fixedassets. While it is possible to finance some of our permanent needs using short-termdebt, it is risky to do so. (Such financing is described as an “aggressive” working capitalfinancing policy in your text – aggressive being associated with risky.) The risk offinancing permanent needs with short-term financing is twofold: first, short-term interestrates fluctuate much more than long-term interest rates. Rolling over short-term debtyear after year will subject you to greater fluctuation in your financing costs as a result.Probably a bigger risk is the inability to roll over the short-term debt every year. Youmay have a bad year and find that lenders are unwilling to refund the debt (forcing you todefault).
Of course, some companies take the opposite approach – they will finance someof their seasonal needs of the fluctuating current assets with long-term financing. This isa conservative approach, but the financing is there when it is needed – but it costsmoney during those times when it is not needed. Banks generally do not want companies to utilize them as a source of permanentfinancing. For this reason, many banks will require that a company’s line of credit becompletely paid off for at least one month each year. This is to prevent the companyfrom using the bank for permanent financing. Of course, banks are essentially matchingtheir assets and liabilities as well. The difference is that a banks assets are its loanswhich it matches to its sources of financing – while firms match their financing to theirassets. Since a bank’s financing source is predominantly short-term deposits, it wantsits loan portfolio to be predominantly short-term as well. Life insurance companies and pension funds, on the other hand, have liabilitiesthat are many years in the future. They would prefer to make longer term loans so thatthere isn’t the need to reinvest the money every year. COMPONENTS OF WORKING CAPITALCash Cash is probably the least productive asset you can have. Not only does it notearn anything, it actually loses purchasing power as a consequence of inflation. So whydo firms hold cash? The three Keynsian motives for holding cash balances are • Transactions motive – to conduct day-to-day business of paying for purchases, labor, etc. • Precautionary motive – to cover unexpected expenditures. If the delivery truck breaks down, it must be repaired or replaced if you want to stay in business. • Speculative motive – unusually good opportunities occasionally arise. If you have the money available, you can take advantage of these opportunities. While cash is necessary to cover the transactions motive, the precautionary andspeculative motives can be covered with the near money (or near cash) of marketablesecurities. In order to maximize your cash balances, you can do one of two things; eitheraccelerate the inflow of funds (ask for an advance on your salary) or delay the outflow offunds (postpone paying the phone bill until next month). But why would we want tomaximize our cash holdings if it is the least productive asset? Because idle cash, eithersitting in a checking account or tied-up in accounts receivable is extremely costly. For example, suppose we have a client who owes us payment of $1,000,000 thatis due. The opportunity cost of not collecting is the interest we could earn on the money. $1,000,000 Receivable due 5% Treasury bill rate
$ 50,000 Annual interest $50,000/365 days = $137 per dayCan you invest money for one day? Absolutely. In fact, for a large enough amount ofmoney, someone will meet you at the bank on Sunday in order to accept your deposit. This also illustrates the concept of “float”. Bank float is the period of timebetween when a check is written to pay an obligation and when the funds are actuallydeducted from your checking account. Within a city, it is common practice to have alocal check clearing system where banks meet each day to exchange checks written onone another’s accounts. When the bank where a check is deposited is in a different cityfrom the bank on which the check is drawn, the deposited check first goes to theregional Federal Reserve Bank, (Dallas in the case of Texas), and is then forwarded tothe issuing bank. This adds a day or two to the float period. If the check is drawn on abank account in another Federal Reserve District, then another day or so is added asthe local Fed must forward the check to the Fed in the issuing bank’s district which thenforwards the check to the bank. Exxon used to pay suppliers west of the Mississippiriver with checks written on a small bank in North Carolina, while suppliers east of theMississippi were paid with checks on a small bank in Arizona. One day’s worth of floatto the U.S. government is worth over $1 billion (which is one reason governmentemployees now get paid on the first of the following month rather than the last day of themonth). Most of us have probably played the float on at least one occasion (and probablygotten caught!) It should be noted, however, that using float to cover up a deficit (i.e.,hot check) is illegal. Another means of extending the float is through the use of drafts. A draft is like acheck, but must be returned to the issuer for verification prior being deposited. This,again, adds 2-3 days to the float period. Insurance companies are most noted for usingdrafts within the U.S. The type of draft that insurance companies use are known assight drafts since they are paid upon presentation. Time drafts are those which arepayable upon a specific future date. Time drafts are an important financing instrument ininternational trade and will be discussed later. While bank float and drafts delay the outflow of funds, cash balances can also beincreased by speeding up the inflow of funds. The primary means of accomplishing thisis through the use of a lock-box system. A lock-box is a post office box in a local citywhere payments from customers in the area are sent. The lock-box is cleared daily andthe checks are deposited in a local bank and then wired to the company’s main bankaccount. Referred to as concentration banking, it cuts 2-3 days off of the time it takesthe checks to cross several states and allows funds to be concentrated in one bank forinvestment in short-term securities. The larger amount of funds that can be investedyields higher interest rates and lower transactions costs. The local bank will offer the lock-box system if a local office is not available ordoes not want to devote the personnel to tend to the system. Banks, however, chargefor the services that they provide through either a direct service charge, or by requiringthat a minimum compensating balance be maintained. A compensating balance is onethat does not pay any interest. The minimum balance can be either an absoluteminimum or an average minimum.
Marketable Securities Marketable securities are a way of holding cash but with the attribute of earninginterest. Market securities have three characteristics: 1. Short-term maturity (less than one year, or “money market instruments” 2. High marketability 3. Virtually no risk of default Several types of marketable securities exist, the major ones being • U.S. Treasury bills Treasury bills are auctioned every Monday by the government. Most have maturities of 91 or 181 days, although some 9-month (270 days) and 12-month (360 days) bills are sold. The t-bills, generally with a face value of $10,000 each, are sold at a discount to the highest bidders. The difference between the amount paid and the face value at maturity represents the interest that is earned. • Anticipation notes Anticipation notes are issued by municipalities and school districts. Since their revenues come from tax sources, the notes are “in anticipation” of future tax receipts. • Commercial paper Commercial paper is the promissory notes of a major national firms. Most of the firms that issue commercial paper sell it directly to investors (insurance companies, money market funds, pension funds) although sometimes it will be sold through investment bankers. Commercial paper is a substitute for bank debt, but at a rate of interest that is one-fourth to on-half of a percent higher than t-bills (currently about 4.3%) but significantly less than what banks would charge (prime is currently about 8.5%). • Banker’s Acceptances A banker’s acceptance is a time draft that evolves from international export/import financing. An exporter is paid by a time draft issued by a foreign bank. Since the draft is not payable until some future date (1-3 months, typically) the company that receives it will often sell it to its local bank at a discount. The local bank bundles the discounted drafts (banker’s acceptances) and then resells them in the money markets.Accounts Receivable Accounts receivable are generated when a firm offers credit to its customers.The first thing that needs to be addressed when establishing a credit policy is to set thestandards by which a firm is judged in determining whether or not credit will beextended. There is what’s known as the 5 Cs of credit:
1. Character – the willingness of the borrower to repay the obligation 2. Capacity – the capability of the borrower to earn the money to repay the obligation 3. Capital – sufficient assets available to support operations (as opposed to a firm that is undercapitalized). Sometimes capital is interpreted to mean equity capital; i.e., to make sure the owners of the firm have sufficient money at stake to give them proper incentive to repay the loan and not let the company go bankrupt. 4. Collateral – assets to support the loan which can be liquidated if default occurs 5. Conditions – current and future anticipated conditions of the firm and the industry. Once the credit standards have been set, the terms of credit need to beestablished. When must the customer pay? If they pay early, will they receive adiscount? If they pay late, do they get charged a penalty? While the whole purpose of extending credit is to increase sales and, thus, grossprofits, the expected increase in gross profits must be compared with the costsassociated with extending credit to customers. These costs include • The time value of money tied up in accounts receivable • Bad debts that occur • Credit checks (to minimize bad debts) • Collection costs • Discounts for early payment (reduces revenues) • Clerical costs associated with maintaining a credit department Competitors will respond very quickly to a change in price. How many timeshave we seen the claims that “We will meet or beat any advertised price”? A change incredit policy, on the other hand, is a more subtle means of competing for customers andone that the competition will not necessarily respond to. In fact, many firms base theirbusiness on easy credit. How many times have we seen the advertisements where theytell us “Good credit? Bad credit? No credit? We don’t care!” Of course, these firms willhave larger bad debt expenses and larger financing costs, etc. Obviously, they will alsoneed to have higher prices (higher gross profit margins) in order to cover these costs.Inventories Inventories (raw materials, work-in-process, finished goods) make up a largeportion of most firm’s current assets, and for many, total assets. As such, the extent towhich a firm efficiently manages its inventories can have a large influence on itsprofitability. Thus, keeping abreast of inventory policy is critical to the profitability (andvalue) of the firm. Several factors influence the amount of inventory that a firm maintains. The mostimportant of these include
• Level of sales – typically, the more sales a firm has, the more inventory it holds • Length of time and technical nature of the production process – The longer it takes to produce finished goods inventories from raw materials, the larger the amount of finished goods that a firm will typically hold (a safety stock). Also, if the production process is highly technical, requiring that retooling be performed prior to each production run in order to assure that production is meeting specifications, larger amounts of inventory will be produced with each production run in order to minimize the set-up costs associated with retooling. • Durability vs. Perishability – If an inventory item is highly perishable, such as fresh vegetables, a small amount will be held. Similarly, fashions of clothes and car styles are “perishable” and will result in smaller inventories than durable goods such as tools and hardware. • Costs – Cost of holding inventories as well as costs of obtaining inventories will influence inventory sizes. Inventory costs can be broken down into three major categories: A. Ordering Costs 1. Fixed costs – stocking, clerical 2. Shipping costs – often fixed 3. Missed quantity discounts – an opportunity cost B. Carrying Costs 1. Time value of money tied-up in inventories 2. Warehousing costs 3. Insurance 4. Handling 5. Obsolescence, breakage, “shrinkage” C. Stock-out Costs 1. Lost sales 2. Loss of goodwill 3. Special shipping costs Ideally, we want to balance these costs against each other so that our total costsare minimized.Short-term FinancingTrade Credit The major source of short-term financing for firms is that of trade credit. While itis an account payable on our balance sheet, it is an account receivable on the balancesheet of our supplier. The terms of credit can vary quite a bit:
1. Cash on Delivery (i.e., no credit) 2. Net amount due within a certain period of time 3. Net amount with a discount if paid within a certain period of time, net amount within another period. For example, 2/10 net 30 means that if you pay within the first ten days, you candeduct 2% from the bill; otherwise the full amount of the bill is due within 30 days.Discounts are offered by suppliers to keep their A/R balances down and minimize thefunds that are tied-up. Not taking the discount can be a very expensive means of financing. Forexample, suppose we do not pay within the first ten days. Then, if we pay on thethirtieth day, we have paid 2% (approximately) for an additional twenty days’ use of thefunds (the first ten days were free anyway). Since there are 18 twenty-day periods in ayear, this is approximately 2% * 18 = 36%Actually, the cost is a little higher since we are paying 2% on top of the 98% we wouldotherwise have to pay: 2% 360days * = 36. 7% 98% 20daysOf course, if you miss payment by day 10 for taking the discount, don’t pay the fullamount of day 11 or you have paid 2%*360 = 720%Do banks charge 36% interest on loans? Not in Texas or most states. It is a violation ofthe usury laws. Then why do many companies forego the discounts if the cost is sohigh? It is the only source of funding that they can get. To reduce the effective cost,firms will often stretch payment out past the due date. Of course, this subjects the firmto risk of its credit being completely cut off by the supplier and possibly damages thecredit reputation since other suppliers will often request references before extendingcredit themselves. Some firms will offer post-dated billing, typically in a seasonal industry. Forexample, if a manufacturer’s primary sales are to retailers for the Christmas season theymay encourage retailers to order in June and July rather than waiting until September.The encouragement is that if an order is placed in June or July, the manufacturer will notbill them until September and even then regular credit terms will apply. The advantagehere is that it allows the manufacturer to smoothe out sale and thus production. Themanufacturer can then save on overtime with employees as well as not incur many ofthe carrying costs associated with holding the inventories since the retailer takespossession and ownership earlier.
Commercial Banks The second major source of short-term financing for firms is commercial banks.A firm wants to establish a close relationship with its bank and obtain a line of credit. Inorder to get a credit line, you will want to show them your income statements, balancesheets, financial ratios, etc. The bank will then allow a certain amount of credit with aset rate of interest (usually prime plus). This can be renegotiated every year. In fact,commercial banks’ bread and butter is their business accounts and they are verycompetitive with one another in trying to attract corporate clients. The amount of thecredit line is typically tied to the amount of accounts receivable that the firm has andsometimes to the amount of inventories that it holds. Another type of credit line is referred to as a revolving line of credit. With arevolving line of credit, the bank provides a written agreement guaranteeing loans up toa certain amount. The firm will pay a normal rate of interest on the amounts of fundsthat it borrows plus a commitment fee of one-half to one percent on any unborrowedfunds. Unlike a regular line of credit which can be changed, a revolving line of creditguarantees that the bank will always make the amount available if needed. Additionally,a revolving line of credit will often be extended jointly by several banks when theamounts used are larger than a single bank can (or wants to) handle alone.Types of Loans Loans come in a variety of shapes. A simple loan requires that the firm maintaina non-interest-bearing account at the bank. While compensating balances are not usedas much as they have been in the past, they are still encountered frequently. Suppose a bank offers a one-year loan for $100,000 at an 8% rate of interestwith a compensating balance of 20%. Then, $100,000 loan Less: 20,000 compensating balance $ 80,000 net proceedsAt the end of one year, the firm repays the bank $88,000. $8,000 is interest on the loanand the other $80,000 (with the $20,000 in the compensating balance for a total of$100,000) is the principal. Thus, the firm has effectively paid $8,000 interest on the useof $80,000 for an annual rate of interest of 10%. Alternatively, the bank may offer a discounted loan where the interest isdeducted up-front. Using our same example, $100,000 loan Less: 8,000 interest $ 92,000 net proceedsAt the end of the year, the firm repays the $100,000 of principal (since the interest waspaid up-front). Effectively, the firm paid $8,000 of interest for the use of $92,000 of fundsfor a rate of interest of 8.7% on the loan.
Of course, your banker is there to help you and may express concern that theneed to come up with $100,000 at the end of the year could be difficult. He/she maysuggest, instead, an interest add-on loan where the amount of interest is added to theprincipal and then repaid in a series of installments. Our example loan would thenrequired that monthly payments of $9,000 be made ($100,000 principal + $8,000 interest= $108,000/12 months = $9,000 per month). $100,000 Average Owed 12 months As an approximation, the amount of the loan that was outstanding during theyear was, on average, only $50,000. The $8,000 of interest thus represents anapproximately 16% rate of interest on the average amount of the loan. More precisely, this loan appears as 0 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 11 12 100,000 (9,000) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - (9,000) (9,000) Of course, if you were the bank, the cash flows would be the same, only thesigns would be reversed. So as a bank officer, how would you determine the rate ofinterest that you were earning on this investment? The true cost of debt of any loan is the internal rate of return between what youreceive and what you have to pay back. Suppose we use our calculators and determinethe IRR of this interest add-on loan. We determine that the IRR is 1.2%. But rememberthat his is 1.2% per month. Using simple interest, 1.2%*12 = 14.4% annual rate ofinterest.Security for Bank Loans Banks like some sort of collateral for loans to ensure repayment of the loan, atleast in part. The preferred collateral for bank loans is accounts receivable. The reason,of course, is that collecting money is what banks do. Typically, a bank will loan up to 75-80% of the receivables that are not over 60 days. There are two ways to obtainfinancing with receivables: Pledging of Accounts Receivable – This is the most common form. A lender willloan up to 80% of the amount of the invoice. Upon payment, the borrower has “pledged”to use the proceeds to reduce the amount of the loan. If the customer does not pay theinvoice, the borrower is still obligated to repay the loan.
Factoring of Accounts Receivable – The receivable is sold to a factoringinstitution. Typically, this is used prior to making a sale on credit. The seller will go to afactor who will run a credit check on the potential buyer. If the buyer has a good creditrating, the factor will give the go-ahead to sell on credit and then buy the receivable (at adiscount) from the seller. The buyer is notified in writing to pay the factor directly for thereceivable. Then, if the invoice is not paid, it is up to the factor to collect from the buyerand the factor takes the risk of bad debt. Sometimes, the factor may withhold 10% fromthe seller to make them share in the risk of non-payment. Then, when payment isreceived, the 10% reserve will be refunded to the seller. The use of factoring is considerably more expensive than the pledging ofaccounts receivable. This is due to the fact that, in addition to lending money for aperiod of 30-90 days, the factor also must run a credit check, incur the cost of collection,and undertake the risk of nonpayment. Banks will also use inventories as collateral for short-term loans. A blanket lien(or floating lien) is one that covers all inventories. Even then, the lender will only loan40-50% of the cost of those goods. This is because, if default occurs, the lender willhave to hire someone to sell the inventories as well as substantially discounting them inorder to liquidate the inventories. A warehouse receipts loan is where a third party holds the inventory as collateralfor the lender. A warehouse receipts loan is most commonly used in the canningindustry or where production of inventory is seasonal. For example, the cotton seasonruns from June to October. Denim jeans, on the other hand, are purchased year-round.Thus, a denim manufacturer might buy cotton in June and produce denim but not haveenough for the estimated annual demand. The producer could then go to a bank andborrow against the bolts of denim that have been produced. These bolts of denim wouldthen be stored in a public warehouse as collateral and funds would be made availablefor the producer to purchase more cotton and produce more denim. As inventories aresold, the loan could be paid down, in which case the lender would notify the publicwarehousing company to release X number of bolts of denim to the producer and theprocess reverses itself. If the inventories are too bulky to transport to a public warehouse, a fieldwarehouse arrangement may be set up where the public warehousing company goes tothe producer’s place of business and physically segregates the inventories that arebeing held as collateral for the lender. Only the public warehousing company wouldhave access to the collateral and would only release it upon notification by the lender.Securities Loans A borrower can pledge their inventories of securities of another company (bonds,notes payable) as collateral for a loan as well. Thus, if you hold a note payable from acreditworthy firm, many lenders will loan money against it. (This is similar, in a sense, towhat happens with a margin purchase.) In short, if a firm has assets of virtually any kind, it can use them as collateral forshort-term loans to meet its short-term cash needs.