Free Cash Flow (FCF)
Optimizing Cash Beyond Capital Expenditure and Working Capital
Free cash flow (FCF) is the cash flow a firm has remaining from its operating cash flows after accounting for its capital expenditure and Capital Expenditure (CapEx) and working capital requirements from Cash Flow from Operations ( ).requirements. It is calculated by subtracting the cash used for
The(UFCF) does not account for the payment to debt holders whereas levered free cash flow (LFCF) considers all debt-related financial commitments (i.e. interest and ).
Therefore, UFCF measures the cash flow available to both equity and debt holders while LFCF measures FCF available only to the shareholders of the firm.
A firm could use the FCF in 2 different ways; retain it in the business or pay it out to the shareholders.
The decisions on whether to retain or pay out the FCF is known as payout. Some of the reasons that a firm would want to retain FCF include:
- Having the opportunity to invest in potential positive net present value ( ) project in the near future
- Build up their cash reserves for times of financial slack when they need to make sure that they are able to meet their payment obligations
Therefore, firms that retain FCF are likely firms that have a high return on investment (ROI) or unstable cash flows.
In the US stock market, stock buybacks have been the dominant way of returning shareholder wealth by a mile since the introduction of Rule 10B-18 in 1983 which legalized stock buybacks. This is because stock buyback is a more tax-efficient way of returning shareholder wealth compared to dividend payments.
- Free cash flow (FCF) is the company's remaining cash after accounting for capital expenditures and working capital requirements.
- Firms can use FCF to reinvest in the business or pay it out to shareholders through dividends or stock buybacks.
- Unlevered free cash flow (UFCF) does not account for debt payments, while levered free cash flow (LFCF) considers all debt-related commitments.
- FCF yield is a measure of a company's performance, considering cash flow over earnings per share, and can indicate the attractiveness of a company's valuation.
- Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE) is the cash flow available to shareholders after all expenses and financing activities, used in leveraged DCF valuation methods. Negative FCF can signal growth or financial challenges.
The most common way to calculate the UFCF of a company is as follow:
UFCF =* (1 - tax rate) + D&A - -
- EBIT = Earnings before Interest and Taxes,
- D&A = Depreciation and Amortisation expenses
- Changes in NWC = Changes in
- Capex = Capital expenditure
EBIT, D&A and Taxes can be found in thein NWC and Capex can be found in the current & prior period’s .
The most common way to calculate the LFCF of a company is:
LFCF =+ D&A - Change in NWC - Net investment in operating capital
FCF yield is a financial solvency ratio of a company. It has been touted by some investors to be a better measure of company performance than earnings per share due to the emphasis on the the income statement in this metric.
FCF yield can be defined in two ways:
- FCF yield = FCF per share / per share
- FCF yield = FCF /
The latter is usually employed as FCF can be found on the market capitalization can be easily found using databases such as or FactSet.statement and
On the contrary, the former method requires the discovery of the shares outstanding of a company and may be dated or inaccurate if the company is thinly traded or schemes.
Some investors may view FCF yield as a better measure of company performance because they believe it is a more accurate representation than.
This is because FCF yield, unlike earnings per share, liquidity) and gives an idea of the accessibility to cash from operations in cases of unexpected obligations. Further, the ability to yield cash flow is a better indicator of long-term value than paper profitability.of the company (i.e.
The lower the yield, the less attractive a company is to investors as this suggests that the shares are trading at a higherdespite not generating a superior cash flow to justify it.
On the contrary, a high FCF yield wouldof the company is attractive as the company is generating enough cash flow to satisfy debt obligations and possible increases in dividend payments or buyback schemes.
This would lead to an increase in return for the investors should the valuation multiples for the shares increase.
The FCFE is a measure of how much is attributed to the shareholders after all expenses, including those related to CapEx, and financing activities. It is another (LFCF).
LFCF is usually compared directly to the market value of equity as it considers cash available only to the equity holders of a firm. For example, it is used in the leveredmethod of valuation.
In a levered DCF, the appropriate cost of equity, which is the rate of return required by the shareholders for the level of risk they are undertaking.would be the
Given this, comparing a highly levered firm to one with lower leverage but with identical cash flows, we would observe that the market value of equity would be lower compared to the firm with lower leverage as the Modigliani-Miller proposition II.would be higher, following the assumptions proposed by the
Further, ahas a higher probability to be in the negative as compared to the in the same period. This is possible in years where debt repayment obligations amount to more than the unlevered FCF generated by the business.
If the unlevered FCF is negative, the firm has a high growth rate requiring heavy capital expenditure or is making a loss from its ordinary course of business.
This would suggest that the firm would need capital injections sooner or later from investors to make up for the negative cash flow, and in cases where it is not due to high growth, it may make sense to sell or restructure the business.
To continue learning and advancing your career, check out these additional helpful WSO resources: