largest firms made big increases in cash reserves
By Aldo Svaldi
companies significantly boosted their cash reserves last year, a
sign that the downturn wasn't as severe as many anticipated.
The state's 77 largest public companies reported cash on
their balance sheets of $23.4 billion, an 89 percent increase
from the $12.4 billion held at the end of 2008.
Fifty of those
companies boosted their cash, 26 decreased it, and one kept it
"Companies cut their workers and inventories as though we
were going into a depression, but the economy has not been that
bad," said Barbara Walchli, manager of the Aquila Rocky Mountain
Lower overhead costs allowed companies to set aside cash when
the recession didn't prove as severe as expected, she said.
And with banks more reluctant to lend, the buildup in cash
also has been partly defensive in that more companies are
self-financing, she said.
Some corporations, such as Qwest Communications, also
have debt coming due that they may pay off rather than
Qwest more than quadrupled its cash holdings last
year, from $565 million to $2.4 billion.
Uncertainty also plays into the equation: Why spend money to
expand when the economy isn't growing?
Besides paying down debt, companies sitting on copious
amounts of cash can boost dividends, purchase shares, make
acquisitions and, in theory, hire more workers.
Conversely, an absence of cash or burning through reserves
rapidly can point to troubles ahead.
Forest Oil recorded the largest percentage increase in cash
of any Colorado public company
last year — from $2.2 million in 2008 to $467.2 million.
"We sold a very big chunk of assets in 2009 from our interest
in the Permian Basin
(in west Texas) to some assets
in Alberta," said Patrick Redmond, vice president of
corporate planning and investor relations at
Newmont Mining reported the biggest dollar increase, raising
cash holdings from $435 million to $3.2 billion, a 639 percent
Gold gained nearly 25 percent in value last year, and Newmont
was on the right side of that trend.
"Over the last three years, Newmont has focused on delivering
on our plans and responsibly managing costs while providing full
exposure to rising metal prices," said spokesman Omar Jabara.
Liberty Media, traded through three tracking stocks — Liberty
Starz, Liberty Capital and Liberty Interactive — reported $4.84
billion in cash on hand, the largest stash of any company in the
Behind it was Liberty Global, which operates cable systems
overseas, with $3.27 billion in cash.
Qwest, Western Union and MDC Holdings were the other Colorado companies with more than $1 billion
Aldo Svaldi: 303-954-1410 or