Definition and examples of cash flow statement

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What is a cash flow statement?

A cash flow statement is a financial statement that provides aggregate data about all the cash inflows that a business receives from its ongoing operations and from its external sources of investment. It also includes all cash outflows that remunerate business activities and investments during a given period.

A company’s financial statements provide investors and analysts with a portrait of all the transactions that go through the company, where each transaction contributes to its success. The cash flow statement is considered the most intuitive of all financial statements because it tracks the cash generated by the business in three main ways: through operations, investing, and funding. The sum of these three segments is called net cash flow.

These three different sections of the cash flow statement can help investors determine the value of a company’s shares or the company as a whole.

Key points to remember

  • A cash flow statement provides data on all of the cash inflows that a business receives from its ongoing operations and external sources of investment.
  • The statement of cash flows includes cash generated by the business through operations, investments and financing, the sum of which is called net cash flow.
  • The first section of the statement of cash flows is cash flow from operations, which includes the transactions of all operational business activities.
  • The cash flows from investing are the second section of the statement of cash flows and are the result of investment gains and losses.
  • The final section is Cash Flows from Financing, which provides an overview of cash used from debt and equity.

How Cash Flow Statements Work

Every company that sells and offers its shares to the public must file reports and financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).The three main financial statements are the balance sheet and the income statement. The cash flow statement is an important document that helps to open up an overview of interested parties on all transactions that go through a company.

There are two different branches of accounting: accrual accounting and treasury. Most public companies use accrual accounting, which means that the income statement is not the same as the cash position of the business. The statement of cash flows, however, focuses on cash accounting.

Profitable businesses may not manage cash flow properly, which is why the cash flow statement is an essential tool for businesses, analysts and investors. The cash flow statement is divided into three different business activities: operations, investing and financing.

Consider a business that sells a product and gives credit for the sale to its customer. Even though it recognizes this sale as income, the business may not receive any money until a later date. The business makes a profit on the income statement and pays income taxes, but the business may make more or less money than sales or income figures.

Investors and analysts should use good judgment when evaluating changes in working capital, as some companies may try to increase their cash flow before reporting periods.

Cash flow from operations

This is the first section of the cash flow statement which covers cash flow from operating activities (CFO) and includes transactions from all operating activities. The cash flow from operations section begins with profit or loss and then reconciles all non-monetary items with cash items involving operating activities. It is therefore, in other words, the net result of the company, but in cash version.

This section presents the cash flows and outflows that arise directly from the principal business activities of a company. These activities may include the buying and selling of inventory and supplies, as well as the payment of salaries to its employees. All other forms of entry and exit such as investments, debt and dividends are not included.

Companies are able to generate sufficient positive cash flow for their operational growth. If there is not enough production, they may need to finance themselves through external growth in order to develop.

For example, accounts receivable are a non-cash account. If accounts receivable increase over a period, it means that sales are up, but no money was received at the time of the sale. The cash flow statement deducts receivables from net income because it is not cash. Cash flows from the operations section can also include accounts payable, depreciation, amortization, and many prepaid items recognized as income or expense, but without the associated cash flow.

Cash flow from investment

This is the second section of the statement of cash flows which examines the cash flow from investing (CFI) and is the result of investment gains and losses. This section also includes tangible capital expenditures. This section is where analysts look to find changes in capital spending (capex).

When capital spending increases, it usually means there is a reduction in cash flow. But that’s not always a bad thing, as it can indicate that a business is investing in its future operations. Firms with high investments tend to be the ones that thrive.

While the positive cash flow in this section can be considered good, investors would prefer companies that generate cash flow from business operations, not through investing and financing activities. Businesses can generate cash flow in this section by selling equipment or goods.

Cash flow from financing

The last section of the cash flow statement is cash flow from financing (CFF). The section provides an overview of cash used in corporate finance. It measures the cash flow between a business and its owners and creditors, and its source is normally debt or equity. These numbers are typically reported annually in a company’s 10-K report to shareholders.

Analysts use the cash flow from financing section to determine how much money the company has paid out in the form of dividends or share buybacks. It is also useful in helping to determine how a business is mobilizing cash for operational growth.

Cash obtained or repaid from fundraising efforts, such as equity or debt, is listed here, as is loans taken or repaid.

When the cash flow from financing is a positive number, it means that there is more money going into the business than it is going out. When the number is negative, it may mean that the company is paying off debt or paying dividends and / or share buybacks.


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