Cash Flow

Cash flow refers to the movement of money into and out of a business or individual’s finances over a specific period. It is a crucial measure of financial health, indicating the liquidity and ability to meet obligations such as paying bills, salaries, and other expenses. Positive cash flow indicates that a company has more money coming in than going out, while negative cash flow means the opposite.

Types of cash flow

Operating cash flow

Operating cash flow (OCF) is the cash generated from a company’s regular business operations. It reflects the core activities that generate revenue, such as sales of goods and services, and includes cash paid for operating expenses. OCF is a key indicator of a company’s ability to generate sufficient cash to maintain and grow its operations.

Investing cash flow

Investing cash flow (ICF) involves cash transactions for the purchase and sale of long-term assets and investments. These transactions can include the acquisition or disposal of property, plant, and equipment, investments in securities, or the purchase of other businesses. ICF reflects a company’s investment strategy and its capacity to generate future growth.

Financing cash flow

Financing cash flow (FCF) represents the cash movements related to borrowing, repaying debt, and transactions with the company’s shareholders. This includes issuing or buying back shares, paying dividends, and obtaining or repaying loans. FCF provides insight into a company’s capital structure and how it funds its operations and growth.

Importance of cash flow

Liquidity and solvency

Maintaining a positive cash flow is essential for ensuring liquidity and solvency. It enables businesses to meet their short-term obligations, such as paying suppliers, employees, and creditors, and helps prevent insolvency and financial distress.

Financial planning and budgeting

Cash flow analysis is a vital tool for financial planning and budgeting. It helps businesses forecast future cash needs, allocate resources efficiently, and make informed decisions about investments, expenses, and financing.

Investment evaluation

Investors use cash flow statements to assess a company’s financial health and performance. Positive and stable cash flow indicates a company’s ability to generate sufficient funds to sustain operations, invest in growth opportunities, and return value to shareholders.


Lenders and creditors evaluate a company’s cash flow to determine its creditworthiness. Strong cash flow enhances a company’s ability to secure financing and negotiate favourable terms with lenders.

Cash flow statement

A cash flow statement is a financial document that summarises the cash inflows and outflows over a specific period, typically a fiscal quarter or year. It is divided into three sections: operating, investing, and financing activities. The cash flow statement provides a comprehensive view of a company’s cash movements and complements the balance sheet and income statement.

Components of a cash flow statement

  1. Operating activities:
    • Cash receipts from sales of goods and services
    • Cash payments to suppliers and employees
    • Cash payments for operating expenses
    • Cash receipts from royalties, fees, commissions, and other revenue
    • Cash payments for interest and taxes
  2. Investing activities:
    • Cash payments for the purchase of property, plant, and equipment
    • Cash receipts from the sale of property, plant, and equipment
    • Cash payments for investments in securities
    • Cash receipts from the sale of securities
    • Cash payments for business acquisitions
    • Cash receipts from business disposals
  3. Financing activities:
    • Cash receipts from issuing shares or other equity instruments
    • Cash payments to buy back shares or other equity instruments
    • Cash receipts from issuing debt instruments (loans, bonds)
    • Cash repayments of borrowings
    • Cash payments for dividends to shareholders

Example of cash flow analysis

Consider a company that provides the following cash flow statement for a fiscal year:

  • Operating activities:
    • Cash receipts from customers: $500,000
    • Cash payments to suppliers and employees: $300,000
    • Cash payments for operating expenses: $50,000
    • Cash payments for interest: $10,000
    • Cash payments for taxes: $20,000
  • Investing activities:
    • Cash payments for the purchase of equipment: $60,000
    • Cash receipts from the sale of old equipment: $10,000
  • Financing activities:
    • Cash receipts from issuing shares: $100,000
    • Cash repayments of borrowings: $40,000
    • Cash payments for dividends: $20,000

The cash flow statement for this company would be:

  • Net cash flow from operating activities: $500,000 – $300,000 – $50,000 – $10,000 – $20,000 = $120,000
  • Net cash flow from investing activities: $10,000 – $60,000 = -$50,000
  • Net cash flow from financing activities: $100,000 – $40,000 – $20,000 = $40,000
  • Net increase in cash: $120,000 – $50,000 + $40,000 = $110,000

This analysis indicates that the company generated $120,000 from its core operations, spent $50,000 on investing in equipment, and raised $40,000 through financing activities, resulting in a net increase in cash of $110,000 for the fiscal year.


Cash flow is a vital indicator of financial health, providing insight into a company’s liquidity, solvency, and overall financial performance. By understanding and managing cash flow effectively, businesses can ensure they have the necessary funds to meet their obligations, invest in growth opportunities, and achieve long-term success. Regular cash flow analysis and strategic planning are essential components of sound financial management.

For more detailed information on cash flow and related financial concepts, you can visit the Australian Government’s Business website.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this page is for general informational and educational purposes only and is never intended as financial advice. While we strive to ensure that the content is accurate and up-to-date, it may not reflect the most current legal or financial developments. Always consult with a qualified financial advisor or professional before making any financial decisions. Use the information at your own risk.

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