Earnings and Cash Flows: A Primer on Free Cash Flow
This post is by Aswath Damodaran from Musings on Markets
It is never pleasant to be in the midst of a market correction, but a market correction does operate as a cleanser for excesses that enter into even the most disciplined investors' playbooks in the good times. This correction has been no exception, as the threat of losing investment capital has focused the minds of investors, and led many to reexamine practices adopted during the last decade. In particular, there has been more talk of earnings than of revenue or user growth this year, and the notion of cashflows driving value seems to be back in vogue. As someone who believes that intrinsic value comes from expected cash flows, I find that development welcome, but I do find myself doing double takes when I see concoctions of free cash flow that violate first financial principles. While I understand that there is no one overriding definition of cash flow that trumps others, it is essential that we define what we mean when we talk about free cash flows, and get perspective on what companies look like, on these cash flow measures.
Free Cash Flows: The What and The Why!
Free cash flow is one of the most dangerous terms in finance, and I am astonished by how it can be bent to mean whatever investors or managers want it to, and used to advance their sales pitches. I have seen analysts and managers argue that adding back depreciation to earnings gives you free cash flow, an intermediate stop, at (Read more...)