P/CF - Price/Cash Flow

The Price/Cash Flow (P/CF) Ratio is a valuation metric used by quantitative analysts and investors to evaluate a company's market value relative to its operational cash flow.

P/CF - Price/Cash Flow Ratio

The Price/Cash Flow (P/CF) Ratio is a valuation metric used by quantitative analysts and investors to evaluate a company's market value relative to its operational cash flow.

 

Price/Cash Flow Formula

The formula for Price/Cash Flow Ratio first calculates the cash flow per share.  Then the current price is divided by the previous result as shown below.

There are multiple versions of the metric depending on the type of cash flow and time period used. Variants are summarized below:

  • P/CF Ratio TTM:   uses the average number of common shares over the trailing twelve months (TTM) divided by the operating cash flow over the same period
  • P/FCF Ratio TTM:   uses the company's free cash flow, or cash flow minus capital expenditures, to calculate the ratio over the trailing twelve months (TTM) 
  • P/CF Ratio Q:   uses the average number of common shares over the most recent quarter divided by the operating cash flow over the same period
  • P/FCF Ratio Q:   uses the company's free cash flow, or cash flow minus capital expenditures, to calculate the ratio for the most recent 3 months

The quarterly figures are more responsive than the trailing twelve months but are subject to seasonal variations.  For this reason they should only be used to compare stocks within an industry or sector.



Interpretation

In general, the P/CF Ratio provides an indication of the health of the company and the premium the market is willing to pay. A higher figure indicates that the market has high hopes for the future of the company.  However, a high ratio may not signify a good investment due to share overpricing.

A lower ratio indicates that the market does not have as much confidence in the company.  This may not always be a negative investment factor because the share price may be undervalued.

The Price/Cash Flow Ratio is considered by many analysts to be better than the more popular Price/Earnings (P/E) Ratio, as the former only considers cash flow, with non-cash items that are easy to manipulate removed from the calculation. In the case of large companies, depreciation and amortization tends to be large and greatly affects net income. This is reflected in the P/E Ratio and leads to poor investment decisions. On the other hand, the Price/Cash Flow Ratio removes the effect of non-cash items and gives realistic and reliable results. 



A better measure is the Price/Free Cash Flow (P/FCF), a variant of the P/CF Ratio, which uses free cash flow instead of operational cash flow.  The free cash flow is reduced by capital expenditures and other non-recurring items. Due to the complexity of calculating free cash flow, many investors prefer to use the simpler P/CF Ratio.

Related Terms



Quantitative Analysis

Good quantitative factors exhibit relationships with stock returns that not only have a fundamental and/or theoretical basis for stock returns but are also stable and persistent over time. The Price/Cash Flow Ratio is such a factor, having been correlated with past stock returns for the last 20 years and also expected to be correlated with future returns. 

Investment Horizon

The P/CF Ratio exhibits the best quantitative characteristics when analyzed using a longer investment horizon.  For quantitative analysis, the investment horizon is referred to as "rebalance period".  The rebalance period is the time a stock is held prior to refreshing the portfolio holdings. While the P/CF Ratio achieves good results with weekly, monthly and quarterly rebalance, the P/E Ratio performs best with an investment horizon of 1 year.  This is explained further in the next section.

Quintile Back-Test

The Quantitative Analyst assesses individual stock factors by:

  • separating the stocks into quintiles (or deciles) based on the value of the factor
  • calculating the performance of each quintile based on rebalance period and total back-test period
  • analyzing the spread of performance between Quintile 1 to Quintile 5

Ideally the performance spread should be "monotonic", meaning that Quintile 1 outperforms Quintile 2, Quintile 2 outperforms Quintile 3, and so forth.

Using the above process, the stocks from the Russell3000 Index were sorted into quintiles based on Price/Cash Flow Ratio, then evaluated over the 10 year back-test period 2005-2014 with a 3 month and 1 year rebalance period.

Test Results

The quantitative analysis was performed using both 3 month and 1 year rebalance period the results expressed in annualized percent profit shown in the column charts below.

10 Year back-test performance of the Price/Cash Flow (P/CF) Ratio with 3 Month rebalance period. Annualized percent profit versus quintile.

10 Year back-test performance of the Price/Cash Flow (P/CF) Ratio with 3 Month rebalance period. Annualized percent profit versus quintile.

10 Year back-test performance of the Price/Cash Flow (P/CF) Ratio with 1 year rebalance period. Annualized percent profit versus quintile.

10 Year back-test performance of the Price/Cash Flow (P/CF) Ratio with 1 year rebalance period. Annualized percent profit versus quintile.

The 3 month rebalance period has a nice spread between Quintile 1 and Quintile 5, better than for the 1 year rebalance period.  While this is desirable, the 3 month rebalance period doesn't exhibit monotonic behavior for Quintile 3 and 4. The longer rebalance period may be the better choice.

This test should be repeated using different random start dates and time periods in order to provide a more exhaustive quantitative analysis.

In Quantitative Analysis,  single factor back-tests are not executed to generate real-life performance figures or to outdo a benchmark. At this stage the Technical Analyst is simply trying to identify whether the stock factor contains useful predictive value. There are many other considerations involved in the construction of a portfolio that will change the performance numbers.

Equity curves for Russell3000 10 year P/CF Ratio quintiles