Calling all cash flows
When you are trying to buy the market's best stocks, it's worth checking up on your companies' free cash flow once a quarter or so, to see whether it bears any relationship to the net income in the headlines. That's what we do with this series. Today, we're checking in on Precision Castparts
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Data is current as of last fully reported fiscal quarter. Dollar values in millions. FCF = free cash flow. FY = fiscal year. TTM = trailing 12 months.
Over the past 12 months, Precision Castparts generated $1,027.0 million cash while it booked net income of $1,279.8 million. That means it turned 13.7% of its revenue into FCF. That sounds pretty impressive. However, FCF is less than net income. Ideally, we'd like to see the opposite.
Unfortunately, the cash flow statement isn't immune from nonsense, either. That's why it pays to take a close look at the components of cash flow from operations, to make sure that the cash flows are of high quality. What does that mean? To me, it means they need to be real and replicable in the upcoming quarters, rather than being offset by continual cash outflows that don't appear on the income statement (such as major capital expenditures).
So how does the cash flow at Precision Castparts look? Take a peek at the chart below, which flags questionable cash flow sources with a red bar.
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Data is current as of last fully reported fiscal quarter. Dollar values in millions. TTM = trailing 12 months.
With questionable cash flows amounting to only 5.0% of operating cash flow, Precision Castparts's cash flows look clean. Within the questionable cash flow figure plotted in the TTM period above, changes in taxes payable provided the biggest boost, at 9.9% of cash flow from operations. Overall, the biggest drag on FCF came from capital expenditures, which consumed 17.9% of cash from operations.
Most investors don't keep tabs on their companies' cash flow. I think that's a mistake. If you take the time to read past the headlines and crack a filing now and then, you're in a much better position to spot potential trouble early. Better yet, you'll improve your odds of finding the underappreciated home-run stocks that provide the market's best returns.
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Seth Jayson had no position in any company mentioned here at the time of publication. You can view his stock holdings here. He is co-advisor of Motley Fool Hidden Gems, which provides new small-cap ideas every month, backed by a real-money portfolio. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Precision Castparts. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.