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# What is Free Cash Flow in Corporate Finance?

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

### Introduction: What is Free Cash Flow (FCF)?

Free cash flow (FCF) is a measure of a company's financial performance that shows how much cash a company generates after accounting for the capital expenditures needed to maintain or expand its assets. It is calculated by subtracting a company's capital expenditures from its operating cash flow.

FCF is an important metric because it represents the cash that a company has available to pay dividends, reduce debt, make acquisitions, or fund other activities. A company with a positive FCF is generating more cash than it needs to maintain its current operations and growth, while a company with a negative FCF is consuming more cash than it is generating.

FCF is often used by investors and analysts to evaluate a company's financial health and its ability to generate cash in the future. It is also used by management to make decisions about the allocation of resources and to determine the appropriate level of capital expenditures.

It's important to note that FCF is not the same as net income, which is a measure of a company's profitability. FCF takes into account the capital expenditures needed to maintain or expand a company's assets, while net income only reflects the revenue and expenses associated with a company's core operations.

### How to calculate Free Cash Flow from Financial Statements?

Free cash flow (FCF) is calculated by subtracting a company's capital expenditures from its operating cash flow. Here's the formula: FCF = Operating cash flow - Capital expenditures To calculate FCF, you'll need to gather the following information from the company's financial statements:

1. Operating cash flow: This can be found on the cash flow statement. It is calculated by adding net income, non-cash expenses (such as depreciation and amortization), and changes in working capital (such as changes in accounts receivable and inventory).

2. Capital expenditures: This can also be found on the cash flow statement. It represents the money the company spent on acquiring or improving long-term assets, such as property, plant, and equipment.

Once you have this information, you can plug it into the formula to calculate the company's FCF. For example, if a company had an operating cash flow of \$10 million and capital expenditures of \$5 million, its FCF would be \$5 million (\$10 million - \$5 million). It's important to note that FCF is a measure of a company's financial performance, and it is not the same as net income, which is a measure of profitability. FCF takes into account the capital expenditures needed to maintain or expand a company's assets, while net income only reflects the revenue and expenses associated with a company's core operations.

## Free Cash Flow (FCF) vs Net Cash Flow

Free cash flow (FCF) and net cash flow are two different financial metrics that are used to measure a company's financial performance. Here's how they differ:

1. Free cash flow: FCF is a measure of a company's financial performance that shows how much cash a company generates after accounting for the capital expenditures needed to maintain or expand its assets. It is calculated by subtracting a company's capital expenditures from its operating cash flow. FCF is an important metric because it represents the cash that a company has available to pay dividends, reduce debt, make acquisitions, or fund other activities.

2. Net cash flow: Net cash flow is a measure of a company's ability to generate cash from its operations. It is calculated by adding up all the cash inflows (such as revenue from sales) and subtracting all the cash outflows (such as expenses and taxes). Net cash flow is a key indicator of a company's financial health, as it shows whether the company is generating enough cash to meet its financial obligations.

It's important to note that while FCF and net cash flow are both measures of a company's financial performance, they are calculated differently and provide different information. FCF takes into account the capital expenditures needed to maintain or expand a company's assets, while net cash flow only reflects the cash inflows and outflows associated with a company's core operations.

## Free Cash Flow vs Profit

Free cash flow (FCF) and profit are two different financial metrics that are used to measure a company's financial performance. Here's how they differ:

1. Free cash flow: FCF is a measure of a company's financial performance that shows how much cash a company generates after accounting for the capital expenditures needed to maintain or expand its assets. It is calculated by subtracting a company's capital expenditures from its operating cash flow. FCF is an important metric because it represents the cash that a company has available to pay dividends, reduce debt, make acquisitions, or fund other activities.

2. Profit: Profit, also known as net income or earnings, is a measure of a company's profitability. It is calculated by subtracting a company's expenses from its revenues. Profit is an important metric because it shows whether a company is generating more money than it is spending and is a key indicator of a company's financial health.

It's important to note that while FCF and profit are both measures of a company's financial performance, they are calculated differently and provide different information. FCF takes into account the capital expenditures needed to maintain or expand a company's assets, while profit only reflects the revenues and expenses associated with a company's core operations.

## Free Cash Flow Example

Here is an example of how to calculate free cash flow (FCF) using a company's financial statements:

• Find the company's operating cash flow: This can be found on the cash flow statement. It is calculated by adding net income, non-cash expenses (such as depreciation and amortization), and changes in working capital (such as changes in accounts receivable and inventory).

For example, let's say a company has a net income of \$5 million, non-cash expenses of \$2 million, and a change in working capital of \$1 million. Its operating cash flow would be \$8 million (\$5 million + \$2 million + \$1 million).

• Find the company's capital expenditures: This can also be found on the cash flow statement. It represents the money the company spent on acquiring or improving long-term assets, such as property, plant, and equipment.

For example, let's say a company had capital expenditures of \$3 million.

• Calculate the company's FCF: To calculate the company's FCF, subtract the capital expenditures from the operating cash flow. In this example, the company's FCF would be \$5 million (\$8 million - \$3 million).

This means that the company generated \$5 million in cash after accounting for the capital expenditures needed to maintain or expand its assets. It has this cash available to pay dividends, reduce debt, make acquisitions, or fund other activities.