Cash is King

The truest picture of how well a company is doing comes from understanding not just the profit and loss statement and the balance sheet, but how these describe what is happening to cash in the company.

by Sir John Royden

Head of Research

Understanding Finance

But to get a firm picture of what is happening to cash you need to reverse out non cash entries.

Here’s an example of a company’s profit and loss statement:

cash is king

It looks as if Fudge Company Ltd is doing well; profit in 2013 of £21.7m was up on profit of £19.7m in 2012. However, a closer inspection of the statement shows that this might well be just because the directors changed the depreciation policy.

Depreciation is the accountants’ way of moving the purchase cost of a machine into the profit and loss statement over time. Usually it is something like 10% of the cost of the machine every year for ten years.

If the directors of Fudge Company Ltd saw cash costs go up from £50m to £60m they could change the depreciation policy to write their machines off over twenty years, rather than just ten. This would halve the depreciation charge from £25m to £12.5m and result in a higher profit in the Report and Accounts. In fact, Fudge Company Ltd is doing less well as it only made £40m of pre-tax cash profit, or EBITDA, rather than £50m in the year 2012.

EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest Tax Depreciation and Amortisation and means cash profit before tax.

Understanding Finance

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