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Free Cash Flow to Equity

Several people invest in the share market for ensuring a stable income source through dividends. Companies providing dividends to the shareholders are generally profitable. Examining a company’s financial statements allows you to comprehend their profits; moreover, scrutinizing their free cash flow provides an insightful perspective on profitability.

After a firm covers all its operating expenditures, it earns excess cash, known as free cash flow. Equally important in investing is another technical component: the free cash flow to equity. Read this comprehensive guide to learn the significance and meaning of free cash flow to equity.

What is Free Cash Flow to Equity?

A company’s available cash for distribution among its shareholders is referred to as Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE). This value is calculated after accounting for all expenses, debts, and reinvestments at the company level. When used in conjunction with FCFF, it allows for the evaluation of a firm’s financial health.

Indeed, analysts have increasingly favoured the Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE) method for valuing companies over the Dividend Discount Model (DDM) in recent years. The rationale behind this preference lies:

  • Should a company choose not to distribute dividends, the calculation of the available amount for equity stockholders using DDM might pose difficulties. However, employing the FCFE method eases this process; it accurately calculates such an amount irrespective of whether or not shareholders receive their dividends.
  • The FCFE method serves as a reliable metric: it determines whether a company leverages its free cash flow to equity or other financing options for stock repurchases and dividend payments.

Hence, we can confidently assert that Free Cash Flow to Equity (FCFE) offers a significantly superior method for assessing a company’s financial position; indeed, it provides an unambiguous measure of robustness.

Free Cash Flow to Equity Formula

Refer to the company’s website for its statement of cash flows, where you can derive details about FCFE. Additionally, many companies distribute quarterly, semi-annual, or annual reports containing their financial statements. These also serve as valuable resources. Nevertheless, utilising the simple free cash flow to equity formula can help in Free Cash Flow to Equity calculation.

FCFE = Cash from Operating Activities – Capital Expenditures + Net Debt Issued (Repaid)

Free Cash Flow to Equity Calculation – How it Works?

The free cash flow to equity formula above clearly shows that FCFE incorporates metrics such as net income, working capital and capital expenditures along with debt. To calculate FCFE effectively, you must possess the ability to interpret the company’s financial statements and pinpoint numerical details. The following identifies where those specifics can be found within these financial statements:

  1. You can find the net income in the income statement of the company
  2. The cash flow statement, specifically under the section labeled ‘cash flows from investing,’ provides detailed information about capital expenditure.
  3. The cash flow statement, under the section titled ‘cash flows from operations,’ also provides detailed information about the working capital. It is important to note that, generally, working capital represents the disparity between a company’s current assets and liabilities.
  4. Often, companies exhibit short-term capital requirements intrinsically tied to immediate operations. We label these necessities as net borrowings or debts, which are detailed in the cash flow statement’s ‘cash flows from financing’ section. Note that the net income section already incorporates the interest expenses, hence eliminating your need to supplement it with back-interest expenditures.

When is this Used?

Analysts prefer utilizing free cash flow as the return (FCFF or FCFE) under certain circumstances:

  • When a company doesn’t distribute dividends.
  • When dividend payments deviate significantly from the company’s dividend capacity.
  • When free cash flows align with profitability within a reasonable forecast period.
  • When adopting a control perspective, discretion should be allowed over cash flow utilization, particularly in potential takeover scenarios where dividends may be adjusted to match the company’s capacity. This flexibility extends to utilizing free cash flows for debt servicing post-acquisition. Valuing common equity can be achieved directly through discounted free cash flow to equity or indirectly by subtracting non-common stock capital from FCFF to derive equity value.

Why is it Important to Compute FCFE?

Before investing in a company’s shares, potential investors must prioritize analyzing FCFE. Despite high cash flow, most may be allocated to debt repayment, leaving little for shareholders. Conversely, high dividends with low FCFE indicate either issuing new securities or using existing capital or debt, discouraging prospective investors. Therefore, analyzing a company’s FCFE is imperative before investing in its shares.

What does Negative FCFE Imply?

In specific scenarios, a company may experience negative FCFE. This can stem from various factors such as: 

  1. Negative net income and significant losses.
  2. Working capital adjustments lead to cash outflows.
  3. Large capital expenditures during the fiscal year.
  4. Debt settlements result in substantial cash outflows.

Negative FCFE doesn’t necessarily signify losses but indicates the need for future equity raising.

Advantages of FCFE

  1. Offers insight into a company’s financial well-being: FCFE serves as a reliable gauge of a company’s financial health by assessing the cash available to equity holders. It encompasses all expenditures and investments, clearly revealing the company’s capacity to generate cash for shareholders.
  2. Facilitates investment decision-making: FCFE proves instrumental in assessing a company’s investment potential for investors. Companies boasting robust FCFE are better positioned to pursue growth opportunities, distribute dividends, and execute share buybacks, enhancing their investment appeal.
  3. Simplifies calculation process: FCFE’s straightforward calculation and comprehension make it user-friendly. It necessitates minimal inputs, such as net income, capital expenditures, and alterations in working capital, streamlining the calculation process.

Limitations of FCFE

  1. Excludes consideration of debt financing: FCFE solely focuses on cash available to equity holders, disregarding the influence of debt financing. This omission may result in an incomplete assessment of a company’s financial status.
  2. Hinges on assumptions: FCFE calculation relies on various assumptions like growth rate, cost of capital, and capital expenditures. These assumptions can be subjective, potentially introducing inaccuracies into the FCFE computation.
  3. Not universally applicable: FCFE may not be suitable for all companies, particularly those heavily reliant on debt financing. In such instances, employing free cash flow to the firm (FCFF) might offer a more appropriate metric for free cash flow to equity valuation.


Utilizing FCFE can enhance investment decision-making by offering investors insights into a company’s financial well-being and growth prospects. Investors can make informed investment choices when combined with other metrics and considering its constraints. FCFE serves as a valuable tool within an investor’s arsenal, deserving careful consideration.


What distinguishes FCFF from FCFE?

The primary distinction lies in the recipients of cash flows. FCFF encompasses all investors, including equity and debt holders, representing cash generated from operations available to all stakeholders. Conversely, FCFE focuses solely on equity shareholders, representing cash available after meeting all obligations.

What constitutes favourable Free Cash Flow?

Typically, a positive and consistent cash flow over time defines good Free Cash Flow. However, what qualifies as “good” varies based on industry, free cash flow to equity model, business model, and specific circumstances. A company with robust Free Cash Flow demonstrates its ability to generate surplus cash, invest in growth, repay debt, distribute dividends, and maintain financial stability.

How does Free Cash Flow impact stock prices?

Increased FCF often correlates with higher stock prices. The stock price to free cash flow per share ratio serves as a gauge of a firm’s value. Companies with lower stock prices relative to free cash flow ratios may be perceived as undervalued, presenting attractive investment opportunities.

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