Global companies could release €1.3 trillion from working capital to increase capital investment

Start adding items to your reading lists:
Save this item to:
This item has been saved to your reading list.

08 November, 2018

€1.3 trillion could be released from the balance sheets of globally listed companies if they take steps to address working capital efficiency, according to the findings in PwC’s latest report Navigating Uncertainty: 2018 Annual Global Working Capital Study.

2018 Working Capital Study

The report estimates that this cash release would be enough for global companies to boost their capital investment by 55% without needing to access additional funding or putting their cash flows under pressure.

Despite working capital performance improving for the first time since 2014, global companies are facing a tough road ahead with an increasingly difficult cash environment. The report highlights three challenges to financial performance:

  • While company revenues are up by 10% on last year, the cash conversion ratio has declined by 6%, indicating that converting cash is becoming harder
  • An annual rate of 3.6% in declining capital expenditure is suggesting that companies are committing less cash to investments, which poses a potential threat to their growth in the long-term. 
  • Current monetary policy tightening, as well as uncertainty around global trade, is increasing the cost of cash to companies.

With working capital being the cheapest source of cash, businesses need to optimise working capital performance so that they can maintain operating cash flow and free up funds for investment in an uncertain fiscal marketplace.

One strategy that the report spotlights is supply chain financing, which companies can use to drive greater supplier liquidity, supply chain stability, and efficient payables to maximise their working capital. However, these programmes are geared towards larger suppliers that make the biggest impact at the most acceptable levels of risk for funders. They often ignore smaller suppliers, who need it the most:

  • 77% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) experience slow payments from large corporates. 
  • Over a third of SMEs spend a moderate to significant amount of time and resources chasing large corporations for payment.

By extending supply chain financing options to SMEs, companies can help smaller businesses to access cash at competitive rates and benefit from more predictable cash flow.

Daniel Windaus, PwC UK Partner for Working Capital Optimisation, commented: “Amid today’s uncertainty, companies need to focus on what they can control. Working Capital, and especially Inventory & Receivables, represents a significant opportunity for companies to maximise their operational cash flow.”

You can download the report here.


Notes for the editors.

  1. The Navigating Uncertainty: 2018 Annual Global Working Capital Study can be accessed via
  2. The report analyses the performance of 14,694 global firms, with revenues totalling €37.5 trillion.
  3. PwC’s working capital team analysed their respective working capital performance in receivables, payables, and inventories over a five year period.
  4. Please visit for more information.

About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 158 countries with over 250,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details. © 2018 PwC. All rights reserved.



2018 Working Capital Study


{{contentList.dataService.numberHits}} {{contentList.dataService.numberHits == 1 ? 'result' : 'results'}}

Contact us

Ryan Spagnolo

PwC Global Communications, PwC United States