Corporate Finance

A Quarter of Finance Execs See Cuts in Cash Holdings

Growth in corporate cash slowed considerably in 2014, and an AICPA survey suggests that trend will continue over the next year.
Matthew HellerJune 24, 2015

In a further indication that corporate America is kicking some of its cash-hoarding habit, one out of four CPAs in senior finance positions expect their companies to reduce cash holdings over the next 12 months, according to a new survey by the American Institute of CPAs.

Five percent of those responding to the institute’s latest Economic Outlook Survey said they planned to reduce their cash position significantly, while 10% anticipated reducing their holdings moderately, and 11% said they planned to pare them back a bit.

U.S. nonfinancial corporations held a record $1.73 trillion in cash at the end of 2014, but corporate cash growth slowed to 4% as capital spending, dividends and net share buybacks reached record highs, according to a recent Moody’s Investor Service report.

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Cash balances grew 12% in 2013, and the growth rate has averaged 14% a year since 2009. Cash holdings are expected to increase in the low single digits this year, largely driven by offshore cash.

In the AICPA survey, a majority (60%) of respondents said they plan to keep their cash holdings unchanged over the next year, and only 15% said they planned to add to their holdings.

Of those respondents who indicated they would reduce cash holdings, 45% said they will invest in capital projects, a quarter expected to earmark a dividend or other equity distributions to shareholders, 18% said they will use cash to help fund acquisitions or other business transactions, and 17% planned to reduce debt.

Most of the finance executives said their companies are not yet planning to shift their allocation of cash due to regulatory changes next year that may make it harder to put cash in institutional money-market funds as a short-term tactic to ensure liquidity.

The survey of 570 AICPA Business and Industry members was conducted between May 12 and May 27. CFOs comprised 61% of the respondents, 29% were controllers, 1% were CEOs or presidents, 3% were vice presidents, 1% were COOs, and the remainder were directors or other executives.