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1 September 1983 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 39, Issue 5

A Caveat on Measuring Cash Flow and Solvency

  1. Michael J. Gombola
  2. J. Edward Ketz

Despite apparent interest in cash flow information, most corporations do not directly provide such information in financial reports. Consequently, some financial analysts follow the practice of translating financial statements, particularly the Statement of Changes in Financial Position, into statements presenting cash flow information. This effort will be valuable, however, only if cash flow statements and cash flow measures differ from disclosures typically provided by firms.

An examination of the correlations between net income, operating net income, net income plus depreciation, operating net income plus depreciation, working capital from operations, quick flow from operations and cash flow from operations indicates that net income, net income plus depreciation and working capital from operations are highly correlated with one another. Cash flow from operations and quick flow from operations correlate strongly with one another but do not correlate strongly with any other accounting flow measures.

These findings suggest that net income plus depreciation (often erroneously called cash flow) and working capital from operations (the basis for reporting funds flow for most firms) are both closely associated with measures of profitability. Users employing net income plus depreciation should be warned that this measure is not a measure of cash flow, but rather a measure of profitability. Users analyzing firm solvency should also be warned that measures of solvency based upon working capital from operations may contain different information from that contained in solvency measures based upon cash flow.

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