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Free Cash Flow (FCF): Formula to Calculate

10 Mins 27 Jun 2023 0 COMMENT

Cash flow is a metric used to measure a company’s ability to generate cash from its business. It represents the amount of cash that flows into and out of a business, and it is essential for the day-to-day operations and long-term growth of the business. Free cash flow (FCF) is a specific type of cash flow that measures the amount of cash a company generates after accounting for capital expenditures and other investments. In this article, we will explore what is free cash flow, its formula and how to calculate free cash flow.

What is Free Cash Flow?

Free cash flow (FCF) is the cash generated by a company from its operations after deducting the capital expenditures required for its operations. It represents the amount of cash that a company has available for distribution to shareholders, for reinvesting in the business or for paying down debt.

Free cash flow is an essential metric for investors as it shows the efficiency of a company to generate cash and the money it has available to reward its shareholders.

Free Cash Flow Formula

The formula to calculate free cash flow is relatively straightforward. The free cash flow formula is:

Free Cash Flow = Operating Cash Flow - Capital Expenditures

Operating Cash Flow (OCF) is the cash that a company generates from its daily operations. It includes cash from the sale of goods or services, less cash paid out for operating expenses such as rent, salaries and utilities.

Capital expenditures (CAPEX) are the investments made by a company in long-term assets like plant & machinery, property and equipment, among others. This can include investments in new facilities or upgrades to existing facilities.

How to Calculate Free Cash Flow

To calculate free cash flow, you will need to gather information from a company’s financial statements. You can find the information you need in the company’s statement of cash flows and its balance sheet.

Start by finding the operating cash flow (OCF) for the period under consideration. Next, find the capital expenditures (CAPEX) for the same period. Finally, use the formula to calculate free cash flow. Subtract capital expenditures from operating cash flow. The resulting number is the free cash flow for the period under consideration.

Example of Free Cash Flow Calculation

Let’s look at an example of how to calculate free cash flow. Suppose you are analyzing Company ABC’s financial statements for the year 2022. Here are the relevant numbers:

Operating cash flow = Rs 100,000

Capital expenditures = Rs 60,000

Using the formula, we can calculate the free cash flow for Company XYZ as follows:

Free Cash Flow = Operating Cash Flow - Capital Expenditures

Free Cash Flow = Rs 100,000 – Rs 60,000

Free Cash Flow = Rs 40,000

Interpreting Free Cash Flow

Now that you know how to calculate free cash flow, let’s understand how to interpret it. A positive free cash flow indicates that a company has generated more cash from its operations than it has spent on capital expenditures. It reflects that the company has cash available to pay dividends, pay down debt, or invest in the business.

A negative free cash flow, on the other hand, means that the company is spending more on capital expenditures than it is generating cash from operations. This could indicate that the company is investing heavily in growth or that it is facing financial difficulties.

When interpreting free cash flow, it is important to consider the company’s industry and stage of growth. Some industries, such as tech startups, may have negative free cash flow for years as they invest heavily in growth and innovation. In these cases, it is important to evaluate other factors, such as revenue growth and market potential, to determine the company’s potential for long-term success.

Limitations of Free Cash Flow:

While free cash flow is an important metric for investors, it also has certain limitations. Check out here:

  • Different companies can define capital expenditures differently. This can make it challenging to compare free cash flow between companies accurately.
  • Free cash flow does not take into account future capital expenditures or changes in the business environment that could impact cash flow.
  • FCF relies on cash accounting, which does not always accurately reflect the timing of cash inflows and outflows.
  • FCF also does not take into account debt and interest payments.

Levered and Unlevered Free Cash Flow

Levered and unlevered free cash flow are two variations of free cash flow that take into account a company’s debt level. Levered free cash flow (LFCF) includes interest payments on the company’s debt, while unlevered free cash flow (UFCF) excludes interest payments.

Levered free cash flow is often used by investors to evaluate a company’s ability to service its debt and to determine its valuation. Unlevered free cash flow is often used to determine the cash flow available to investors and to evaluate the overall financial health of the company.

In conclusion, free cash flow is an essential metric for investors to evaluate a company’s financial health and growth potential. By understanding how to calculate and interpret free cash flow, investors can make more informed investment decisions.

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