The Georgia Tech Financial Analysis Lab conducts unbiased research on issues of financial reporting and analysis. Unbiased information is vital to effective investment decision-making. Accordingly, we think that independent research organizations, such as our own, have an important role to play in providing information to market participants.
Because our lab is housed within a university, all of our research reports have an educational quality, as they are designed to impart knowledge and understanding to those who read them. Our focus is on issues that we believe will be of interest to a large segment of stock market participants. Depending on the issue, we may focus our attention on individual companies, groups of companies, or on large segments of the market at large.
A recurring theme in our work is the identification of reporting practices that give investors a misleading signal, whether positive or negative, of corporate earning power. We define earning power as the ability to generate a sustainable stream of earnings that is backed by cash flow. Accordingly, our research may look into reporting practices that affect either earnings or cash flow, or both. At times our research may look at stock prices generally, though from a fundamental and not technical point of view.
Cash Flow Trends and Their Fundamental Drivers: Comprehensive Review
Quarter 1, 2015
Free Cash Margin Index:
2.43%, 3.96% (Mar. 2001, Dec. 2008)
4.39% (Mar. 2015)
7.18% (Mar. 2010)
Median free cash margin increased to 4.39% for the twelve months ended March 2015, up from 4.27% for the twelve months ended December 2014 and from 4.38% in March 2014. The metric remains in the middle range of its historical stability between 4.00% and 5.00%. A decrease in the overall cash cycle (due to a decrease in accounts receivables days) was the primary driver of the increase.
Continued topline growth suggests a strengthening economy. Median revenues within our sample increased to $789.15 million, down slightly from $798.78 million for the twelve months ended December 2014 and up 8.8% from $725.47 for the twelve months ended March 2014. Median revenues remain near all-time high levels and hover above the previous peak of $788.50 million reached during the period ending December 2012.
The rise in free cash margin would be more substantial but for the decline in accounts payable, the primary drag on free cash margin comparative to recent periods. Inventory is up slightly at 22.78 revenue days from 22.71 revenue days in December 2014, while gross margin is down slightly to 43.06% from 43.16%. Capital expenditures to revenue increased ever so slightly to 3.52% from the previous quarter at 3.51%. Overall, accounting data for the twelve months ending with the first quarter of 2015 imply an economy that is improving, but in measured steps.
Looking at individual industries for the reporting period ending March 2015, free cash margin was stable in fifteen industries, higher in eighteen, and lower in eleven.
Data for this research were provided by Cash Flow Analytics, LLC., www.cashflowanalytics.com.
Charles Mulford is a principal in Cash Flow Analytics, LLC.
Earnings Quality: Reports on Individual Companies and Industries
In these reports we examine one or more dimensions of earnings quality: the cash flow support of earnings, the sustainability of earnings, or the quality of the balance sheet.