Financial statements are written records that convey the business activities and the financial performance of a company. Financial statements are often audited by government agencies, accountants, firms, etc. to ensure accuracy and for tax, financing, or investing purposes. For-profit primary financial statements include the balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flow, and statement of changes in equity. Nonprofit entities use a similar but different set of financial statements.
Understanding Financial Statements
Investors and financial analysts rely on financial data to analyze a company's performance and make predictions about the future direction of the company's stock price. One of the most important resources of reliable and audited financial data is the annual report, which contains the firm's financial statements.
The financial statements are used by investors, market analysts, and creditors to evaluate a company's financial health and earnings potential. The three major financial statement reports are the balance sheet, income statement, and statement of cash flows.
The balance sheet provides an overview of a company's assets, liabilities, and shareholders' equity as a snapshot in time. The date at the top of the balance sheet tells you when the snapshot was taken, which is generally the end of the reporting period. Below is a breakdown of the items in a balance sheet.
Cash and cash equivalents are liquid assets, which may include Treasury bills and certificates of deposit.
Accounts receivables are the amount of money owed to the company by its customers for the sale of its product and service.
Inventory is the goods a company on hand it intends to sell as a course of business. Inventory may include finished goods, work in progress that is not yet finished, or raw materials on hand that have yet to be worked.
Prepaid expenses are costs that have been paid in advance of when they are due. These expenses are recorded as an asset because their value of them has not yet been recognized; should the benefit not be recognized, the company would theoretically be due a refund.
Property, plant, and equipment are capital assets owned by a company for its long-term benefit. This includes buildings used for manufacturing heavy machinery used for processing raw materials.
Investments are assets held for speculative future growth. These aren't used in operations; they are simply held for capital appreciation.
Trademarks, patents, goodwill, and other intangible assets can't be physically touched but have future economic (and often long-term benefits) for the company.
Accounts payable are the bills due as part of a business's normal course of operations. This includes utility bills, rent invoices, and obligations to buy raw materials.
Wages payable are payments due to staff for time worked.
Notes payable are recorded debt instruments that record official debt agreements including the payment schedule and amount.
Dividends payable are dividends that have been declared to be awarded to shareholders but have not yet been paid.
Long-term debt can include a variety of obligations including sinking bond funds, mortgages, or other loans that are due in their entirety in longer than one year. Note that the short-term portion of this debt is recorded as a current liability.
Shareholders' equity is a company's total assets minus its total liabilities. Shareholders' equity (also known as stockholders' equity) represents the amount of money that would be returned to shareholders if all of the assets were liquidated and all of the company's debt was paid off.
Retained earnings are part of shareholders' equity and are the amount of net earnings that were not paid to shareholders as dividends.
Unlike the balance sheet, the income statement covers a range of time, which is a year for annual financial statements and a quarter for quarterly financial statements. The income statement provides an overview of revenues, expenses, net income, and earnings per share.
Operating revenue is the revenue earned by selling a company's products or services. The operating revenue for an auto manufacturer would be realized through the production and sale of autos. Operating revenue is generated from the core business activities of a company.
Non-operating revenue is the income earned from non-core business activities. These revenues fall outside the primary function of the business. Some non-operating revenue examples include:
Interest earned on cash in the bank
Rental income from a property
Income from strategic partnerships like royalty payment receipts
Income from an advertisement display located on the company's property
Other income is the revenue earned from other activities. Other income could include gains from the sale of long-term assets such as land, vehicles, or a subsidiary.
Primary expenses are incurred during the process of earning revenue from the primary activity of the business. Expenses include the cost of goods sold (COGS), selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A), depreciation or amortization, and research and development (R&D).
Typical expenses include employee wages, sales commissions, and utilities such as electricity and transportation.
Expenses that are linked to secondary activities include interest paid on loans or debt. Losses from the sale of an asset are also recorded as expenses.
The main purpose of the income statement is to convey details of profitability and the financial results of business activities; however, it can be very effective in showing whether sales or revenue is increasing when compared over multiple periods.
Investors can also see how well a company's management is controlling expenses to determine whether a company's efforts in reducing the cost of sales might boost profits over time.
Cash Flow Statement
The cash flow statement (CFS) measures how well a company generates cash to pay its debt obligations, fund its operating expenses, and fund investments. The cash flow statement complements the balance sheet and income statement.
The CFS allows investors to understand how a company's operations are running, where its money is coming from, and how money is being spent. The CFS also provides insight as to whether a company is on a solid financial footing.
There is no formula, per se, for calculating a cash flow statement. Instead, it contains three sections that report cash flow for the various activities for which a company uses its cash. Those three components of the CFS are listed below.
The operating activities of the CFS include any sources and uses of cash from running the business and selling its products or services. Cash from operations includes any changes made in cash accounts receivable, depreciation, inventory, and accounts payable. These transactions also include wages, income tax payments, interest payments, rent, and cash receipts from the sale of a product or service.
Investing activities include any sources and uses of cash from a company's investments in the long-term future of the company. A purchase or sale of an asset, loans made to vendors or received from customers, or any payments related to a merger or acquisition is included in this category.
Also, purchases of fixed assets such as property, plant, and equipment (PPE) are included in this section. In short, changes in equipment, assets, or investments relate to cash from investing.
Cash from financing activities includes the sources of cash from investors or banks the uses of cash paid to shareholders. Financing activities include debt issuance, equity issuance, stock repurchases, loans, dividends paid, and repayments of debt.
The cash flow statement reconciles the income statement with the balance sheet in three major business activities.