Cash Flow from Operations
Cash flow from operations (CFO) represents the net cash flow of a company from its core operating activities. It can be calculated using either the direct method which finds out actual receipts from customer and payments to suppliers and others, or the indirect method which adjusts net income to arrive at net cash flow from operations.
Because a company’s value is theoretically equal to the present value of its cash generating potential and because accounting income is sensitive to management’s discretion in some of the accounting policies and estimates, cash flows from operations is a better indicator of a company’s true performance. Many financial ratios are based on cash flow measures of income such as price to cash flow ratio, debt coverage ratio, etc. Some of the most popular company valuation models are based on cash flow measure such as free cash flow model which values a company at the present value of its free cash flows which is a cash flow measure derived from cash flows from operations.
We can work out the cash flow from operations using two methods: (a) the direct method and (b) the indirect method.
In the direct method, we find out actual cash received from customers and cash paid to employees, suppliers and for other operating expenses and we subtract the outflows from the inflows to arrive at the net cash flow.
In the indirect method, we adjust the net income figure as reported on an income statement for non-cash items and changes in working capital. The following template can be used to work out cash flows from operations using the indirect method:
Work out the cash flows form operations for Company ABC whose balance sheet is given below:
|USD in million||31-Dec-17||31-Dec-16|
|Cash and bank||10||25|
|Additional paid-up capital||45||30|
|Total equity and liabilities||269||253|
Following is the income statement:
|Income statement||USD in million|
|Cost of sales||(200)|
During the year, depreciation expense and amortization expense amounted to $20 million and $3 million. Taxes paid, interest paid, and dividend paid amounted to $25 million, $8 million and $15 million.
Under the direct method, net cash flow from operations equal revenue receipts minus payment to suppliers and payments for other operating expense.
Receipts from customers equal opening accounts receivable balance plus sales minus closing accounts receivable balance. In this case, total receipts are $305 million:
|Revenue receipts||USD in million|
|Opening accounts receivable balance||25|
|Closing accounts receivable balance||(20)|
|Receipts from customers||305|
To calculate payment to suppliers, we first need to calculate inventories purchased which equal closing inventories balance plus cost of sales (net of any depreciation and amortization) minus opening inventories balance. Next, we need to find payments to suppliers which equal inventories purchased plus opening accounts payable minus closing accounts payable. In our example above, total payment to suppliers work out to $192 million.
|Payment to suppliers||USD in million|
|Cost of sales ($200 million - $20 million - $3 million)||177|
|Add: closing inventories||15|
|Less: opening inventories||(10)|
|= Inventories purchased||182|
|Add: opening accounts payable||50|
|Less: closing accounts payable||(40)|
|Payment to suppliers||192|
We can club the rest of the operating expenses with operating current assets and current liabilities to arrive at the net payment for operating expense. The general formula would be as follows:
$$ CF (Opex)=OPEX+OL+CA-CL-OA $$
Where CF(Opex) is the cash paid for operating expenses, OPEX is operating expenses (sum of selling expenses and G&A expenses in the example above), OL is opening operating liabilities balance, CA is closing operating assets balance, CL is closing operating liabilities balance and OA is opening operating assets balance. In the example above, cash paid for operating expenses (other than cash paid to suppliers) works out to $41 million as shown below:
|Cash flow for operating expenses||USD in million|
|Opening accrued expenses||18|
|Closing accrued expenses||(12)|
|Payment to employees and others||41|
Using the cash receipts and cash payments worked out above we can determine the cash flows from operations using the direct method as follows:
|Cash flows from operations: direct method||USD in million|
|Payment to suppliers||(192)|
|Payment to employee and others||(41)|
|Cash flows from operations||47|
Calculating the cash flows from indirect method is easier. We just need to add the non-cash expenses such as depreciation and amortization and loss on sale of fixed assets, etc. and non-operating expenses to net income, subtract non-cash gains and incomes, adjust for changes in working capital (i.e. add decrease in assets and increase in liabilities to net income and subtract increase in assets and decrease in liabilities) and subtract taxes.
The following schedules calculates cash flow from operations using the indirect method:
|Cash flows from operations: indirect method||USD in million|
|Add: interest expense||10|
|Add: tax expense||20|
|Add: depreciation and amortization expense||23|
|Decrease in accounts receivables||5|
|Increase in inventories||(5)|
|Decrease in accounts payable||(10)|
|Decrease in accrued expenses||(6)|
|Cash flows from operations||47|
Written by Obaidullah Jan, ACA, CFA and last revised on