Operating Cash Flow Ratio

A liquidity ratio that measures a company's ability to pay off its current liabilities with its cash flow

What is the Operating Cash Flow Ratio?

The Operating Cash Flow Ratio, a liquidity ratio, is a measure of how well a company can pay off its current liabilities with the cash flow generated from core business operations. In other words, the operating cash flow ratio shows how much a company earns from its operating activities per dollar of current liabilities. Since earnings involve accruals and can be manipulated by management, the operating cash flow ratio is considered a more accurate measure of a company’s short-term liquidity.

Operating Cash Flow Ratio Formula

The formula for calculating the operating cash flow ratio is as follows:

Where:

• Cash flow from operations can be found on a company’s statement of cash flows. Alternatively, the formula for cash flow from operations is equal to net income + non-cash expenses + changes in working capital.
• Current liabilities are obligations due within one year. Examples include short-term debt, accounts payable, and accrued liabilities.

What is Cash Flow From Operations?

It is important to understand cash flow from operations (also called operating cash flow) – the numerator of the operating cash flow ratio.

Operating cash flow (OCF) is one of the most important numbers in a company’s accounts. It reflects the amount of cash that a business produces solely from its core business operations. Operating cash flow is looked into heavily by investors, as it provides vital information about the health and value of a company. If a company fails to achieve a positive OCF, the company cannot remain solvent in the long term. A negative OCF indicates that a company is not generating sufficient revenues from its core business operations, and therefore needs to generate positive cash flow either from financing or investment activities.

Example of the Operating Cash Flow Ratio

The following information was taken out of Company A’s Q2 financial statements:

To calculate the operating cash flow ratio at the end of the second quarter:

Therefore, the company earns \$1.25 from operating activities per dollar of current liabilities. Alternatively, it can be viewed that Company A can cover its current liabilities 1.25x over.

Interpretation of Operating Cash Flow Ratio

The operating cash flow ratio measures a company’s short-term liquidity. If the ratio is less than 1, the company generated less cash from operations than needed to pay off its short-term liabilities. This signals short-term problems and a need for more capital. A higher ratio  – greater than 1.0 – is preferred by investors, creditors, and analysts, as it means a company can cover its current short-term liabilities and still have earnings left over. Companies with a high or increasing operating cash flow ratio are generally considered to be in good financial health.

Key Takeaways

• The operating cash flow ratio is a liquidity ratio that measures how well a company can pay off its current liabilities with cash generated from core business operations.
• This liquidity ratio is considered a more accurate measure of short-term liquidity as it only uses cash generated from core business operations rather than from all income sources.
• A ratio less than 1 indicates short-term cash flow problems; a ratio greater than 1 indicates good financial health, as it indicates cash flow more than sufficient to meet short-term financial obligations.

We hope you have enjoyed reading CFI’s guide to the operating cash flow ratio. To learn more about cash flow and financial analysis, we suggest the following resources:

• The Ultimate Cash Flow Guide (EBITDA, CF, FCF, FCFF)
• Analysis of Financial Statements
• Comparable Company Analysis
• Financial Analysis Ratios Glossary

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