Companies' cash piles reach nearly €1 trillion as cash relative to revenues hits seven-year high

Lucy White
EMEA's tech sector had the highest ratio of cash relative to revenues (Source: Getty)

Companies based in Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA) have been stacking up the pennies, as cash piles hit €974bn (£861.43bn) for non-financial businesses at the end of 2016.

This is around six per cent higher than in the previous year, and takes cash relative to revenues to a seven-year high.

EDF, Volkswagen, Total, BP and Rosneft topped the list of companies holding the most in reserves.

"EMEA corporate cash balances relative to revenues rose slightly to a seven-year peak of over 15 per cent in total at the end of 2016, as firms hold on to a higher cash cushion than in previous years,” says Richard Morawetz, a Moody's group credit officer.

“The region's tech sector has the highest ratio at 25 per cent, reflecting its strong free cash flow generation capacity.”

The increase in cash buffers likely reflects both a hesitance to invest in uncertain times, and a desire to hold reserves to cover unforeseen circumstances.

Read more: Government should do more to boost flagging company investment, business group says

On the whole, cash in EMEA companies is far less concentrated than in the US where the top five cash holders held about a third of total cash at the end of 2016.

Apple, the largest cash holder in the US, held more cash alone than the entire EMEA energy sector, which was the region's biggest stockpiler with €159bn.

Yet the top five cash holders in Germany, France and the UK hold around half the total of companies domiciled there.

German and French companies were hoarding the most cash, with 21 and 20 per cent of the EMEA total respectively.

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