UK Oil & Gas firms can access a £20bn cash reservoir by tightening up working capital according to financial services giant PwC.

Companies are sitting on the “war chest” that could be released by simply improving working capital management according to new research released today by PwC, which says firms are missing out on opportunities to tap into global working capital reserves totalling £217bn it suggests Exploration and production and oilfield services firms are facing a long term trading challenge – or being fit at $50. PwC said many firms are re-evaluating major capex projects and implementing long-term cost reduction strategies.

According to the report, Working Capital in the Oil & Gas Industry, other territories also need to address working capital in order to achieve a more sustainable business model; it reveals a hefty £217bn global reservoir waiting to be tapped.

Companies are being urged carry out robust working capital benchmarking exercises and diagnostic reviews to identify quick wins and deliver longer term strategies that will both boost and sustain revenue performance, embedding a ‘cash culture’ within the organisation and optimising trade-offs between cash, cost and service.

Alison Baker, oil and gas leader at PwC, said: “Oil and gas firms are facing a future of low oil prices and, as a result, being cost effective in a $50-$60 bbl world will be vital; every move they take to achieve this will be crucial in securing their long term survival.

“Working capital is the life blood of every company and is a barometer for how freely cash flows. In efficiently run businesses, cash runs freely; in others, cash gets trapped in working capital, restricting the company’s ability to grow.

“Working capital can assist in tapping into valuable cash resources, providing much needed headroom and funding for these critical transformational investments.”

The report tracks the success of companies in optimising working capital across territories and also sectors such as exploration and production (E&P), oil field services (OFS) and downstream, covering refineries and product distribution.

While the findings show considerable results from working capital improvements in recent years, there is still plenty to go for, according to PwC.

Other findings reveal service companies hold five times more working capital on average than other oil and gas sectors, largely due to outstanding sales. A total of £35bn in total could be unlocked.

Across listed oil & gas entities that posted Q1 results, revenues have fallen by 20% in Q1 2015 compared to the same period last year.

According to the report authors, OFS firms have higher working capital balances than E&P companies largely due to the purchasing power of oil majors which allows for easier stretching of payment terms. Working capital issues are also compounded by E&P firms re-negotiating supply chain costs downwards.

With reduced profit margins, cash will be critical to maintaining liquidity until oil prices rise and contract rates improve, particularly when it comes to working capital terms in contract renegotiations.

According to Daniel Windaus, working capital partner at PwC, the oil and gas industry has the power to get their working capital back on track – but they need to act now. He said:

“It is clear that that oil & gas firms can and should unlock cash from working capital across the board, particularly given the real economic cash constraints being placed on the industry as a result of low oil prices.

“Our team has already helped firms across the globe to release around £18bn in cash tied up in working capital, showing it can be done and that the process needn’t be painful either.

“Regardless of the sector, it’s vital that oil & gas industry players pay special attention to the efficiency of their working capital management if they wish to successfully navigate this lower oil price environment and consolidate a sustainable, long term future for their business.”

Source: - Written by Phil Allan -