26. What is a Cash Flow Statement

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In this lesson, students learned the importance of the Cash Flow Statement. This important document is used to help determine how money flows through a business. Prior to 1987, investors could only examine the health of a company from the income statement and balance sheet. Due to stricter regulations, publically traded companies are now required to also disclose the cash flow statement.

The cash flow statement is broken down into three categories. 1. Operating Activities: This is probably the most important section of the statement because it shows the money that’s flowing into the business from the product or service that the company produces. Positive revenues listed on the cash flow statement from other activities are not sustainable in the long term, so that’s why this section is so important. 2. Investing Activities: A negative number listed in this section would mean that the company is investing money. A positive number in this section would mean that the company sold an asset in order to generate money. Obviously its better to see a negative number show-up under this section because it implies that the company is continuing to invest the revernues that it produces. 3. Financing Activities: In this section, an investor can identify whether the business is try to raise money or pay off debts. A positive number in this section means the company is incuring debt or dilute the value of their shares. A negative number means the company is paying off debt or increasing the value of their shares (through a share buy back). Generally speaking its good to see a negative number under this section because it means the company is removing their leverage and creating a stronger position for their shareholders.

The Cash flow is a great document to help look at trends and how money flows through a business. Although the balance sheet and income statement are very useful documents for determining the intrinsic value of a stable company, the cash flow statement gives potential investors a glimps into the current conditions of the company and how they manage their resources.