Working capital management assists a firm in achieving improved liquidity through management of the components of receivables, inventory and payables. Previous studies have established that working capital has a strong positive correlation to profitability. These studies have also shown that the components of receivables and inventory have a positive correlation to profitability, while payables have an inverse relationship. The inverse correlation of payables in relation to profitability is contrary to the theory that advocates extending payables’ payment terms as a means of managing working capital and improving liquidity.
This study attempted to ascertain whether, by applying a style-based test, to an extensive database of Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed South African companies, there is evidence to support a positive relationship between returns to investors and payables days. The study further applied the style-based test to the relationship between returns to investors and the management of payables in the form of change in payables days. Further data stratification was applied to industries that are more significantly invested in payables as well as to companies of increasing or decreasing momentum to differentiate the payables strategy of an increasingly profitable company versus an increasingly unprofitable company.
The results of the study indicated that for those companies in industries that have significant investment in payables, management of their payables will achieve superior returns. The study also revealed that this relationship is significant for companies in the top 40% momentum return and that higher change in payables could be applied as a means of obtaining a competitive edge.