Some lessons for us all from the Carillion collapse.

A very useful publication was issued recently by the little known Financial Reporting Council Lab called ‘Disclosures on the Sources and Uses of Cash’.

Tucked away in the appendix of the publication is a very interesting explanation of reverse factoring. This financing method had a role to play in the downfall of Carillion as reported by the Financial Times in January 2018. 

Reverse factoring is a type of finance transaction akin to factoring. In a traditional factoring arrangement a business will sell its accounts receivables (i.e. invoices it has raised with buyers) to a third party (usually a bank) in exchange for a significant proportion of the cash value of the invoices. 

Factoring provides earlier access to cash from sales than would otherwise follow the traditional credit terms.

Reverse factoring is similar to factoring, but it is the purchaser rather than the seller who is the originator of the facility

In reverse factoring the purchaser of goods organises a facility with their bank or other finance provider. This facility allows suppliers to get their invoices factored, and receive cash at a point before the purchaser intended to pay. This type of scheme is particularly beneficial to smaller suppliers who may not have sufficient financial strength to obtain competitive factoring terms themselves. Sometimes reverse factoring is called by a different name like ‘supplier chain finance’.

Whilst normal payment terms might see a purchaser pay a supplier within 30 days, the switch to a reverse factoring facility might also see the payment terms increase up to 120 days, as the facility provider will agree terms with the originator. Any increase in payment period will have the effect of improving the originator’s working capital cycle. 

Unfortunately, in Carrillion’s Annual Report for 2016 the existence of reverse factoring arrangements was not fully disclosed. It can only be presumed to be included on page 116 of the 2016 Annual Report within Note 20 Other Creditors of £760.5m (2015 £561.7m). In 2012 Carillion had announced a switch from paying its suppliers on normal credit terms to paying them, after 120 days. If supplier needed payment earlier, Carillion had arranged a bank to pay them sooner.

The message for readers is: do your clients have financing arrangements like reverse factoring? If so, you need to ensure this is properly disclosed.

A good example of supply chain financing disclosure is in Note 19 Trade and Other Payables on page 177 of the 2018 financial statements of AstraZeneca Plc where it states ‘Trade payables includes $166m (2017: $64m; 2016: $nil) due to suppliers that have signed up to a supply chain financing programme, under which the suppliers can elect on an invoice by invoice basis to receive a discounted early payment from the partner bank rather than being paid in line with the agreed payment terms.’  

More on this in our next blog.

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