The processed tomato is one of the major food products of Italy. It characterizes today many Italian regions in northern and southern Italy, even though the companies in the industry have had difficulties in recent years, due to an increase in the cost of raw materials. These difficulties have reduced profitability, in part because of the length of the financial cycle. Tomato processing enterprises are, in fact, characterized by significant investment in fixed assets and working capital; and, in general, make significant investments in plants and equipment and mostly sell their products in the food distribution chain, with increase in inventories stock and term of payment of commercial credits. These characteristics of the financial cycle amplify the need for investment, often financed by increasing financial debt. Given the difficulties of the tomato industry, which has had an increase in the number of crises and failures, this research aims to identify and verify indicators that can adequately express the sustainability of the financial cycle of the enterprises in the sector. To achieve this, this article analyzes the annual budget data of a sample of 50 tomato processing companies in Italy, over a period of five years. The analysis shows that the economic margins applied to assess the sustainability of the operating cycle are significantly different from financial margins. The research also shows that Interest Coverage Ratios (ICRs), calculated by applying the financial approach suggested, differ from traditionally applied economic ICRs. A multiple regression approach is then applied to analyze the return on capital in terms of profit and cash flow, suggesting a useful approach to measure the return on equity for companies processing tomatoes. The analysis here can be applied in the future and extended to other sectors of agribusiness, particularly if characterized by high capital intensity, analyzing the return to long-term risk capital and the probability of default.
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