Corporate Canada tops global list of cash hoarders

You won't hear the Harper government boast about Canada leading the G7 in this category: the amount of "dead money" being stashed away by corporations.

The International Monetary Fund looked at the amount of "dead money" held by non-financial firms, and found corporate Canada is leading the G7 pack. 

This cash stash in Canada has almost doubled between the mid-1990s and 2012, and "the increase in corporations' cash holdings in Canada has been the fastest among G7 countries since the mid-2000s," the report states.

What happens is the cash hoard accumulates because capital expenditures significantly lags corporate retained earnings.

This "increase in cash positions raised concerns that Canadian firms may be missing on productive investing possibilities," according to the IMF report.

Put another way, this big stash of dead money helps explain the lack of investment and employment growth in Canada -- despite massive tax cuts pitched as necessary to boost investment and job creation. (Between 2000 and 2004, the former Liberal government slashed the federal corporate tax rate from 29% to 22%. The Conservative government cut the tax rate further from 22% in 2007 to 15% in 2012.)

To put the size of the cash hoard ($626 billion) in Canada in perspective, it now exceeds the national debt ($612 billion).

And courtesy of the IMF, here's what this looks like:

IMF - G7 corporate cash stash

 

IMF - cash stash growth among G7

The IMF also drilled down by sector, and found Canada's energy and mining sectors account for about 60% of cash held in Canada in 2012, doubling their cash holdings since 2005:

IMF - cash stash by sector

Photo: asburgessUsed under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.