Free cash flow (FCF) is calculated by taking the cash flow from operating activities and deducting the investment in property, plant, and equipment (capital expenditure).
Free Cash Flow Formula
The free cashflow formula can be stated as follows.
Strictly speaking the capital expenditure used in the calculation is the amount required to maintain the growth of the business at the current rate. In practice this figure is not generally available, and it is normal to use the total capital expenditure figure in the financial statements.
The purpose of free cashflow is to see what cash is available (free) from the operations of the business after allowing for cash to maintain the current growth rate. This free cash flow is then available to improve growth by taking advantage of expansion opportunities, to invest in new products, and to reduce debt and pay dividends to equity providers.
Free Cash Flow Calculation
If we look at the basic cash flow statement below, the highlighted elements represent the main components of free cashflow of the business.
|Add back depreciation||12,000|
|Net cash flow||55,000|
|Opening cash balance||10,000|
|Closing cash balance||65,000|
In the above free cashflow example, the operating cash flow is 57,000, and the amount spent on capital expenditure is 30,000.
The free cashflow is calculated by deducting the capital expenditure from the operating cash flow, which gives FCF of 57,000 – 30,000 = 27,000.
Our free cash flow calculator is available to help you carry out the calculation.
About the Author
Chartered accountant Michael Brown is the founder and CEO of Plan Projections. He has worked as an accountant and consultant for more than 25 years and has built financial models for all types of industries. He has been the CFO or controller of both small and medium sized companies and has run small businesses of his own. He has been a manager and an auditor with Deloitte, a big 4 accountancy firm, and holds a BSc from Loughborough University.