Working It Out: The 2010 Working Capital Scorecard

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Any way you look at it, 2009 was one of the worst years ever for corporate working capital performance. Certainly, last year was the worst that CFO has reported since it started tracking working capital trends more than a decade ago.

For instance, average days working capital for 1,000 of the biggest U.S. public companies jumped by 8.2%, according to the CFO/REL Working Capital Scorecard. That increase marks the biggest DWC deterioration in the last five years for that universe of large companies.

Among the elements that comprise working capital, days sales outstanding performance fell by 10.4%. Although the DSO deterioration was balanced almost evenly by an 11.4% jump in days payable outstanding, days inventory outstanding burgeoned by 8.8%. The reason for the inventory glut? A combination of companies replenishing their inventories after 2008 and those still stuck with unsellable product in 2009.

The question for the balance of 2010 is whether U.S. companies can turn that pain to gain. With efficiencies developed during the economic downturn, indications are that companies should be able to record better results for this year.

To read the complete results of the scorecard, see the box in the bottom right-hand corner of this page.

Working It Out: The 2010 Working Capital Scorecard
The recession triggered a meltdown in working capital performance, but also inspired numerous efforts to improve. Will they last?

Cleaner (Balance) Sheets: The 2009 Working Capital Scorecard
Hard times have inspired companies to wring lots of cash out of working capital. How much better can they get?
No Time to Lose: The 2008 Working Capital Scorecard
Tempted to extend payment terms? That's one sign that working capital demands your immediate attention.
Growing Problems: The 2007 Working Capital Survey
Focused on growth and more reliant on overseas suppliers, companies have let inventories swell.
How Low Can It Go? The 2006 Working Capital Scorecard
Companies continue to reduce working-capital levels, and they have 450 billion reasons to keep at it.
Capital Ideas: The 2005 Working Capital Survey
Despite cheap credit and surplus cash, companies still find plenty of reasons to improve operational efficiency.
Off the Shelf: The 2004 Working Capital Survey
Low inventories drove down working capital last year. But will that continue as the economy improves?
Barely Working: The 2003 Working Capital Survey
Companies squeezed more cash from their businesses this year -- but not much. Was it the economy, or too much focus on Sarbanes-Oxley compliance?
We Can Work It Out: The 2002 Working Capital Survey
Some companies have learned how to reduce working capital without punishing customers or suppliers. But the alternatives aren't totally pain-free.
Forget the Float? The 2001 Working Capital Survey
In a tough operating environment, negative working capital isn't always a plus.
Cash Crop: The 2000 Working Capital Survey
Companies that mind their cash flow are enjoying bumper years.

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The online tables for CFO magazine's 2010 Working Capital Scorecard, conducted by REL, feature a browsable version of 57 industry sectors, and many companies not included in the magazine. All data elements are based on public financials and adjusted for comparability; figures for companies marked with an asterisk have been adjusted for the effects of securitization.

See the results that appeared in print (PDF)

Download the complete 2010 Working Capital Scorecard results (Excel spreadsheet)

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