Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE)

Measures the amount of cash a business generates and is available for distribution to shareholders after deducting capital expenditures and net debt repayments

Author: Rohan Arora
Rohan Arora
Rohan Arora
Investment Banking | Private Equity

Mr. Arora is an experienced private equity investment professional, with experience working across multiple markets. Rohan has a focus in particular on consumer and business services transactions and operational growth. Rohan has also worked at Evercore, where he also spent time in private equity advisory.

Rohan holds a BA (Hons., Scholar) in Economics and Management from Oxford University.

Reviewed By: Josh Pupkin
Josh Pupkin
Josh Pupkin
Private Equity | Investment Banking

Josh has extensive experience private equity, business development, and investment banking. Josh started his career working as an investment banking analyst for Barclays before transitioning to a private equity role Neuberger Berman. Currently, Josh is an Associate in the Strategic Finance Group of Accordion Partners, a management consulting firm which advises on, executes, and implements value creation initiatives and 100 day plans for Private Equity-backed companies and their financial sponsors.

Josh graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and is currently an MBA candidate at Duke University Fuqua School of Business with a concentration in Corporate Strategy.

Last Updated:October 5, 2023

What Is Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE)?

Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE) measures the amount of cash a business generates and is available for distribution to shareholders after deducting capital expenditures and net debt repayments.

In addition, it calculates the actual cash available for distribution to shareholders via share buybacks or dividends. It is a component used in discounted cash flow valuation models to calculate a stock’s fair value.

It became more popular as an alternative to the dividend discount model (DDM), especially for cases in which a company does not pay a dividend.

FCFE is the amount of cash remaining solely for equity investors. For example, a company can use this leftover cash to fund the following:

1. Dividend Issuances: The company can pay cash dividends to its preferred and common shareholders.

2. Share Repurchases: This is when a company buys back shares to reduce the outstanding shares. This process reduces dilution and can temporarily and artificially increase a company’s share price. 

3. Re-Investments: A company can also reinvest the remaining cash into its business operations. Companies usually do this in hopes that it will increase their share price. 

All of these options are for the benefit of a company’s equity holders. 

Key Takeaways

  • Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE) measures cash available to shareholders after expenses, debts, and reinvestments. It's vital for stock valuation, especially when companies don't pay dividends.
  • FCFE comprises net income, capital expenditures, and net debt. Its formula is
    • FCFE = Cash From Operating Activities − Capital Expenditures − Net Debt Issued (Repaid)
  • Cash Flow to Equity (CFE) helps assess how companies finance dividends and buybacks, indicating financial health and shareholder value. It's crucial for discounted cash flow analysis.
  • FCFE focuses on equity valuation, while FCFF assesses overall firm value. FCFE uses the cost of equity as the discount rate, while FCFF employs the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) for valuation.
  • Understanding FCFE helps investors analyze a company's ability to reward shareholders. It distinguishes between companies financing dividends with free cash flow and those relying on debt, aiding investors in making informed investment choices.

The Formula for FCFE

Now that we understand what Free Cash Flow to Equity is, let’s look at how to calculate it. The formula is as follows:

Free Cash Flow To Equity = Cash From Operating Activities - Capital Expenditures - Net Debt Issued (Repaid )


  • Cash From Operating Activities (CFO): Refers to the first section of the cash flow statement. It focuses on the cash flows from a company’s business activities, including purchasing and selling merchandise and providing services. 
  • Capital Expenditures (CapEx): These are the funds that a company uses for physical assets (e.g., property, plant, and equipment, or (PP&E). These are the funds that a company uses for physical assets, including both new projects and investments in existing assets like property, plant, and equipment (PP&E).
  • Net debt: It measures how much debt a company carries on its balance sheet compared to its liquid assets.

Essentially, net debt represents the amount of cash that a company would have if it paid off all of its debt and the company had enough liquidity to satisfy its debt obligations.

Example of how to use FCFE

We’ve seen what the formula for FCFE is. Let us not implement it and check how we can actually use it for calculations.

The balance sheet for Company X is given below. We will use it to calculate the company’s FCFE.

Particulars 2018 ($ million) 2017 ($ million)
Depreciation and Amortization 12 15
Current Assets 145 75
Fixed Assets 200 220
Accounts payable 25 25
Short term debt 30 20
Long term debt 20 15

The company’s net income for the year 2018 is $250 million. 

For 2018:

Net income = $250 million

Depreciation and Amortization is $12 million

Change in Working Capital: 

Difference in Current Assets = 75 - 145 =  -70

Difference in Current Liabilities = 25 - 25 = 0

So, the change in Working Capital is

(-70 - 0) = $-70 million

Change in Capital Expenditure is

(220 - 200) = 20

Net borrowings is the sum of short-term and long-term debt:

Difference in Short Term Debt = 30 - 20 = 10

Difference in Long Term Debt = 20 - 15 = 5

Net borrowings = Short Term Debt + Long Term Debt = 10 + 5 = $15 million


FCFE = 250 + 12 - 70 - 20 + 15

Free Cash Flow To Equity = $187 million


Discounted cash flow analysis is crucial because it estimates the amount of money an investor would receive from an investment in a company. The analysis also adjusts for the time value of money.

What does FCFE tell you?

One crucial aspect is that it estimates the amount of equity available to shareholders and represents the cash that a company can return to its shareholders after all expenses, debts, and reinvestments have been accounted for.

But what does it tell us? Let’s take a look below:

  • It can be used to analyze whether a company’s dividend payments and stock repurchases are financed with Free Cash Flow To Equity or a different form of payment. Investors find it ideal when a dividend payment or share repurchase is paid completely using this.
  • If a company’s metric is less than the dividend payment and the price to buy back shares, the company is financing with debt, existing capital, or the issuance of new securities. 
  • When a company’s metric is significantly more than its dividend payment funds, it uses the extra Free Cash Flow To Equity to grow its cash level or invest in other sellable securities.
  • Lastly, if a company’s metric is equal to the amount it is spending to buy back shares and pay dividends, the firm uses its total Free Cash Flow To Equity to pay its investors.  


First, let’s discuss simple Free Cash Flow (FCF). It represents the cash generated by the company’s normal business operations after subtracting capital expenditures from its operating cash flow.

Unlike the metrics, EBITA, EBIT, and Net Income, FCF adjusts for capital expenditures and changes in cash due to operating assets and liabilities. Because of this, FCF is usually used for DCF analysis and valuing companies. 


It is important to note the two different types of Free Cash Flows. Free Cash Flow to Equity is referred to as Levered Free Cash Flow, while Free Cash Flow to Firm (FCFF) is usually called Unlevered Free Cash Flow. 

Leverage is another term used for debt, so ‘unlevered’ Free Cash Flow (FCFF) refers to the cash generated by the company’s operations before accounting for interest expenses and taxes. 

In contrast, ‘levered’ Free Cash Flow (FCFE) refers to the cash available to equity shareholders after accounting for interest payments, debt repayments, and other obligations.

Understanding the differences between FCFE and FCFF is important because the discount rate and numerator of valuation multiples depend on the type of cash flow used to value a company. 

To clear up any confusion, let’s take a look at the table below to understand the difference between the two terms:

Definition Cash available to equity shareholders after debt obligations. Cash generated by company operations before interest & taxes.
Incorporates Accounts for interest payments, debt repayments, and obligations. Excludes interest payments and taxes from the cash calculation.
Use in Valuation Used for equity valuation, determining shareholder value. Used for enterprise valuation, assessing overall firm value.
Investor Focus Focuses on equity investors, considering dividends and buybacks. Focuses on all investors, including debt and equity holders.
Risk Factor Reflects risks specific to equity shareholders. Reflects overall business risk, irrespective of capital structure.
Discount Rate Discounted at the cost of equity. Discounted at the weighted average cost of capital (WACC).

FCFE in Valuation

The distinction between Enterprise Value and Equity Value is critical when valuing a company. The Enterprise Value of a company is the value of the entire firm without considering its capital structure.

The Equity Value of a company is the firm’s value attributable to its shareholders, which includes any surplus cash and excludes all of the company’s financial obligations (e.g., debt).

Now, for valuation, remember:

  • If you want to calculate a firm’s net present value (NPV) of equity, you will use FCFE
  • Conversely, if you calculate a firm’s NPV of the enterprise, you will use FCFF

When using DCF valuation with FCFE, the discount rate is the equity cost—using this rather than FCFF may be preferable if the firm’s dividend policy is unstable or an investor possesses a controlling interest in the firm.   

In contrast, the discount rate for DCF valuation when using FCFF is the weighted average cost of capital (WACC). This discount rate incorporates the costs of the firm’s capital structure. 

This metric has gained popularity among analysts for valuation using the dividend discount model (DDM). The FCFE makes valuation particularly easier if a company does not pay dividends. 

Researched and authored by Rachel Kim | LinkedIn

Reviewed and Edited by Aditya Salunke I LinkedIn

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