There are two definitions of working capital (1) Gross working capital (2) Net working capital
Gross working capital refers to working capital as the total of current assets, whereas the net working capital refers to working capital as excess of current assets over current liabilities. In other words net working capital refers to current assets financed by long term funds.
Gross working capital = Total current assets
Net working capital = Current assets – Current liabilities
The net working capital position of the firm is an important consideration, as this will determine the firm’s profitability and risk. Here the profitability refers to profits after expenses and risk refers to the probability that a firm will become technically insolvent where it will be unable to meet obligations when they become due for payment.
A finance manager has to make an appropriate financing mix, which will limit the risk and increase the profitability. Financing mix refers to the proportion of current assets financed by current liabilities and long term funds.
There are two approaches which determine the financing mix (1) Aggressive approach (2) Conservative approach.
According to aggressive approach the long term funds are used to finance only the core or fixed portion of current assets (e.g., minimum level of finished goods inventory, raw material etc) and the other portion i.e. temporary and seasonal requirements are financed by short term funds. This is of high risk and high profit financing mix.
According to conservative approach the total current assets are financed from long term sources and short term sources are used only in emergency situation i.e. when there is an unexpected cash outflow. This is of low-risk and low-profit financing mix.
As we observed two methods of financing mix, one method is of high risk high profit and other is of risk low profit. A finance manager has to trade off between these two extremes.
The objective of financial management is to maximize the shareholders wealth. So it is needed to generate sufficient profits. The profits generated depend mainly on sales volume. When the goods are being sold on credit as is the normal practice of business firms today to cope with increased competition the sale of goods cannot be converted into cash instantly because of time lag between sales and realization of cash.
As there is a time lag between sales and realization of receivables there is a need for sufficient working capital to deal with the problem which arises due to lack of immediate realization of cash against goods sold. The operating cycle is the length of time required for conversion of non-cash assets into cash. This operating cycle refers to the time taken for the conversion of cash into raw material, raw materials into work-in-progress, work-in-progress into finished goods, finished into receivables into cash and this cycle repeats.
The operating cycle length differs from firm to firm. If a firm has lengthy production process or a firm has liberal credit policy the length of operating cycle will be more. On the other hand, if a firm does not extent credit or the firm is not a manufacturing concern i.e. where cash will be converted into inventory directly then the length of operating cycle will be reduced to a greater extent.
The length of operating cycle can be calculated by calculating periods of raw material storage, work in process, finished gods storage and debtors collection period.
1. Raw materials storage period
= Average stock of raw materials and stores/ Average daily consumption of raw material and stores
2. Work in process period
= Average work in process inventory /Average cost of production per day
3. Finished goods storage period
= Average finished goods inventory / Average cost of goods sold per day
4. Debtors collection period
= Average book debts / Average credit sales per day
Length of operating cycle = 1+2+ 3+4