Simply put, if revenues can be estimated or overstated, so can net income. Before reporting percentageincreases or decreases as part of a headline or first paragraph, journalists should review the company’sIncome Statement and revenue footnotes to see how the company is actually recognizing revenue.Journalists and investors need to know not only why reported revenue increased or decreased, but also howthe company came to that conclusion. This information and whether it results from volume changes, pricechanges, increased credit extension, etc. is reported in the MD&A.
Habit #4 - Always Review the Cash Flow Statement First
A company’s true value is based on the amount of cash flow, not net income, it produces (see Habit #2 for thelogic). The Cash Flow Statement allows investors to compare how much cash came into the company duringthe period, where it came from, how much was used, and what it was used for.Each section of this statement is self-descriptive, reflects management’s strategy and actions, and can be aleading indicator of what will eventually show up on the Income Statement. Cash inflows are positivenumbers, while cash outflows are negative numbers, usually noted in parentheses.
Cash Flow from Operating Activities
- shows how much cash came from sales of the company’sgoods and services, less how much cash was used to create and sell those goods and services.Analysts generally like a positive number for the net number for this section. Nonetheless, highgrowth companies (such as biotech and tech) tend to show negative Cash Flow from Operations inthe early years because of their need to manufacture more products to meet increased demand.
Cash Flow from Investing Activities
- typically a negative number, this reflects what the companyhas spent on “capital expenditures” (e.g., new equipment) and “acquisitions.” Analysts normallywould like to see a company re-invest capital into its business by at least the rate of depreciationexpense each year. If a company does not reinvest, it may artificially show higher cash inflow in thecurrent year that may not be sustainable for the business’s long-term health. Analysts prefer to see acompany always reinvesting in itself.
Cash Flow from Financing Activities
– Studies have shown that expansion plans for a company,which are generally reflected in the Investing Activities section, tend to be 70 percent funded by CashFlow from Operations. The remaining 30 percent usually comes from outside sources such asissuance of debt security or stock.
cash inflows and outflows from issuances, repayments, stockbuybacks, or shareholder dividend payments are reflected here.Journalists should track and report two key cash flow measures and the changes in those measures over time – rather than simply net income or earnings per share.
Cash Flow from Operations
- shows how much cash the business generated from operations duringthe quarter or year. Changes in this clearly pre-empt changes in future net income. Analysts loveseeing this go up.
Free Cash Flow = Cash Flow from Operations less Capital Expenditures
(or also known asPurchase of Property, Plant and Equipment). The more free cash flow generated during the period,the more power a company has to expand, pay dividends, pay down debt, or buy back stock.Also, be sure to read the “Liquidity and Capital Expenditures” footnotes section of the 10-K Report that shedlight on changes in the Cash Flow Statement. It can usually be found in a section called the Management