Free Cash Flow Meaning, Formula, and More

  • 14-Sep-2023
  • 2 mins read

Free Cash Flow (FCF) is a critical financial metric that serves as a compass for businesses and investors alike. It’s the financial lifeblood of any company, representing the cash generated after accounting for operational expenses and capital investments.

This article will explain FCF, its formula, its types (FCFE and FCFF), and why it’s important in financial analysis. An investor seeking potential prospects or a company leader seeking informed judgments must understand FCF. So, let’s begin.

What is Free Cash Flow?

Free Cash Flow (FCF) is a financial metric representing a company’s remaining cash after settling all debts and financial commitments. It measures the cash a firm generates once essential working capital and capital expenditures are considered.

FCF is the cash available for repaying creditors, distributing interest and dividends to investors, and funding activities like debt reduction and business expansion.

Essentially, FCF offers a valuable gauge of a company’s financial well-being and operational effectiveness, making it a crucial indicator for assessing overall performance and sustainability.

Types of Free Cash Flow

Free Cash Flow comes in two primary types, each serving different purposes in financial analysis:

  • Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE)
  • Free Cash Flow to Firm (FCFF)

Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE): Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE) is a financial metric that reveals the cash available to a company’s equity shareholders. It assesses the firm’s capacity to distribute dividends, repurchase shares, or invest in growth initiatives without jeopardizing its financial stability. The FCFE formula is as follows:

FCFE = FCFF + Net borrowing – Interest amount * (1-tax)

This method uses the company’s net income, adjusts for non-cash expenses, subtracts capital expenditures and net working capital, and adds net borrowing to calculate shareholders’ cash after critical expenses and investments. FCFE is crucial for investors assessing a company’s dividend-paying potential and overall financial strength.

Free Cash Flow to Firm (FCFF): Free Cash Flow to Firm (FCFF) measures the cash available to all of a company’s investors, including both equity and debt holders. It reflects a company’s ability to generate cash from its core operations while considering its tax obligations. The formula for FCFF is:

FCFF = EBIT(1 – Tax Rate) + Depreciation and Amortization – Capital Expenditures – Change in Net Working Capital + Net Borrowing

FCFF helps assess a company’s ability to meet its financial obligations and fund future growth initiatives, making it valuable for creditors and analysts in evaluating a company’s overall financial health.

How to Calculate Free Cash Flow?

Free Cash Flow calculation may look complicated; however, let’s simplify:

  • Start with Operating Cash Flow (OCF): This is the money your company generates from its core operations. These operations are like selling products or providing services. It’s like the cash flowing in from your daily business activities.
  • Subtract Capital Expenditures (CapEx):CapEx represents the money you spend on things like buying new equipment, building facilities, or investing in assets. These are essential for the business but not considered part of daily operations. Subtract CapEx from OCF.

That’s It! The result of subtracting CapEx from OCF gives you your Free Cash Flow (FCF).

So, in simple terms, FCF is the cash you have left after covering everyday operations and necessary investments. It’s a crucial indicator of a company’s financial health and its ability to grow or pay back debts.

Advantages of Free Cash Flow

Free Cash Flow has several advantages, and here’s a simplified explanation of why it’s important:

  • Shows Real Profit:FCF reveals the actual money a company has left after all its expenses and investments. It’s similar to understanding how much money you have after paying bills.
  • Predicts Future Growth: It helps predict a company’s growth as more free cash may be invested in new ventures, paid off debts, or returned to shareholders.
  • Flexible for Decisions: FCF gives companies the flexibility to make smart decisions. They can use it to expand, innovate, or weather tough times.
  • Investor Confidence: Investors love FCF because it shows that a company is financially stable and can generate profits.

In simple terms, FCF is like knowing how much money a company really has to play with after taking care of all its responsibilities. It’s a key indicator of financial health and growth potential.

Limitations of Free Cash Flow

Free Cash Flow is a useful financial measure, but it has some limitations to keep in mind:

  • FCF calculations involve various financial numbers, making them complex and prone to errors if not done carefully.
  • Companies can sometimes manipulate FCF by delaying or accelerating expenses or investments.
  • Positive FCF doesn’t guarantee a company is profitable; it just shows it’s generating cash. A company could still have net losses.
  • FCF may not reflect a company’s long-term health since it mainly focuses on the short-term cash flow.
  • FCF doesn’t directly consider debt repayments, which are crucial for a company’s financial stability.
  • Different industries have unique capital requirements, making FCF comparisons challenging.

Hence, while FCF is valuable, it’s essential to consider its limitations and use it alongside other financial metrics for a complete financial picture.


Free Cash Flow is like a financial health check-up for companies. It indicates a company’s remaining funds after paying expenses and investing in its future. Businesses and investors need FCF to make informed financial decisions.

So, don’t underestimate the power of FCF—it’s a valuable tool for anyone interested in money matters and investments. Keep learning and using FCF to make wise financial choices.


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