Adopting a tactic widely used by 3G Capital, the Brazilian private investment group behind the recent merger of Heinz and Kraft Foods, a growing number of the world's largest food and packaged goods companies are asking their suppliers to give them as much as four months to pay their bills - even though they typically require payment from their own customers in 30 days.
When economic hard times hit in 2007-2008, CFOs and finance departments felt pressure to improve their organizations' working capital positions. The longer companies could hold on to cash, the more liquid they were, and the safer they felt. Paying bills quickly meant dipping into cash reserves, possibly taking away money from new-product development, mergers and acquisitions, marketing, or anything else that might drive top-line revenue. It was either that or be forced to rely for growth on expensive external financing. Everyone knew that when it came to days payable outstanding, longer was better.