Determinants and consequences of working capital management
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Well-managed working capital plays an important role in running a sound and successful business as it has a direct influence on liquidity and profitability. Working capital management (WCM) has recently received an increased focus from businesses and been regarded as a key managerial intervention to maintain solvency, especially during the global financial crisis when external financing was less available (PwC, 2012). This thesis contains a comprehensive analysis of the determinants and consequences of WCM. For the determinants of WCM, the results suggest that the nature of a firm’s WCM is determined by a combination of firm characteristics, economic condition, and country-level variables. Sources of financing, firm size, and levels of profitability and investment in long-term assets play a vital role in the management of working capital. The financial downturn has also put increased pressure on firms to operate with a lower level of working capital. In addition, country-level variables (i.e., legal environment and culture) have a significant influence on determining a firm’s WCM as well as its determinants. For the consequences of WCM, the findings highlight the importance of higher efficiency in WCM in terms of its potential contribution in enhancing profitability. In particular, firms operating with lower accounts receivable, inventory, and accounts payable periods are associated with higher profitability. Firms can also enhance their profitability further by ensuring a proper “fit” among these components of working capital. Finally, achieving higher efficiency in inventory management can be a source of profitability improvements during the financial crisis. Overall, the thesis contributes to the accounting and finance literature in two distinct ways: research design and new findings. A more extensive data set (in terms of countries coverage and time frame), new estimation technique (i.e., dynamic panel generalised method of moments (GMM) estimation to produce more consistent and reliable results), and substantive robustness tests (conspicuous by their absence in prior studies) were applied and result in several new empirical findings. First, a firm’s WCM is influenced not only by internal factors but also external factors such as country setting, legal environment and culture. Second, a comprehensive measure of WCM (i.e., cash conversion cycle (CCC)) does not represent a useful surrogate for the effects of WCM on corporate profitability. Instead, an examination of the individual components of CCC gives more pronounced and valid results. Third, by managing working capital correctly, firms can enhance their profitability even further, at different levels, and through different components of profitability (including profit margin and asset productivity).