European companies are hoarding more than three times the cash they held a decade ago as the region heads for a second year of recession, putting them at risk of losing out to U.S. rivals boosting acquisitions and investment.
Cash holdings at the 265 European companies in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, excluding banks and insurers, to have reported 2012 results totalled $475 billion at the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with $136 billion in 2002 and is 14 percent more than in 2011. Siemens AG, Vodafone Group Plc and Total SA are among nine companies that each held more than $10 billion.
Other firms that cancelled or reduced dividends in recent months include phone companies Telecom Italia SpA, Royal KPN NV and Telefonica SA as well as car companies PSA Peugeot Citroen and Faurecia.
The economic outlook, though, may make them wary. Carlos Slim’s investments in Europe highlight the risks for foreign companies seizing on cheap prey in the region.