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Tuesday, 25 July 2017 
There are two definitions of free cash flow, both of which are useful for investors:

1.  Free cash flow to the firm (FCFF)
2.  Free cash flow for shareholders (FCF).

Free cash flow for shareholders is also referred to as free cash flow for equity.

These can be calculated very easily from a company's cash flow statement.


To calculate FCFF, take a company's cash flows from operating activities, add dividends received from joint ventures and subtract tax paid to get the net cash flow from operations.  The subtract capex.

Net cash from operations
less Capital expenditure
add Dividends from joint ventures


To calculate the FCF, take the FCFF number and subtract net interest (interest received less interest paid), any preference share dividends, and dividends to minority shareholders.

less dividends paid to minorities
less interest paid
add interest received

When FCFF is not much different from FCF

A company with very little debt and thus, a tiny interest payment, virtually all of the free cash flow produced by the business (FCFF) becomes free cash for the shareholders (FCF).

In such a company, there is not much difference between FCFF and FCF.

This is a positive sign for investors and investors should look for this sort of situation in companies they are analysing.

When FCFF is consistently different from FCF

A company with a lot of borrowings has high interest bills to pay.

In this company, the FCFF and FCF can be consistently different for many years.

This is because the interest payments eat up a big chunk of the company's FCFF, leaving less FCF for shareholders.

Avoid companies with lots of debt

In general, it is a good idea to avoid companies with lots of debt.

  • Too much of their free cash flow to the firm can end up being paid in interest to lenders instead of to shareholders.

The one possible exception to this rule is when companies are using their free cash flows to repay debt and lower their future interest bills.

  • This can see FCF to shareholders increasing significantly in the future, which can sometimes make the shares of companies repaying debt good ones to own.

Additional notes

Free cash flow to the firm (FCFF)

The amount of cash left over to pay lenders and shareholders.

Operating cash flow less tax and capex.

Free cash flow (FCF)

The amount of cash left over after a company has paid all its non-discretionary costs.

It is the amount of cash that the company is free to pay to shareholders in a year.

Operating cash flow less tax and capex, interest paid and preference dividends. 

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