What Federated Investors Does With Its Cash

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

In the quest to find great investments, most investors focus on earnings to gauge a company's financial strength. This is a good start, but earnings can be misleading and incomplete. To get a clearer understanding of a company's ability to earn money and reward you, the shareholder, it's often better to focus on cash flow. In this series, we tear apart a company's cash flow statement to see how much money is truly being earned and, more importantly, what management is doing with that cash.

Step on up, Federated Investors (NYS: FII) .

The first step in analyzing cash flow is to look at net income. Federated Investors' net income over the last five years has been impressive, all things considered:

 

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Normalized Net Income$153 million$181 million$216 million$225 million$224 million

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Next, we add back in a few noncash expenses, like the depreciation of assets, and adjust net income for changes in inventory, accounts receivable, and accounts payable -- changes in cash levels that reflect a company either paying its bills, or being paid by customers. This yields a figure called "cash from operating activities" -- the amount of cash a company generates from doing everyday business.

From there, we subtract capital expenditures, or the amount a company spends acquiring or fixing physical assets. This yields one version of a figure called "free cash flow," or the true amount of cash a company has left over for its investors after doing business:

 

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Free Cash Flow$105 million$208 million$248 million$301 million$319 million

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Now we know how much cash Federated Investors is really pulling in each year. Next question: What is it doing with that cash?

There are two ways a company can use free cash flow to directly reward shareholders: dividends and share repurchases. Cash not returned to shareholders can be stashed in the bank, invested in other companies and assets, or used to pay off debt.

Here's how much Federated Investors has returned to shareholders in recent years:

 

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Dividends$100 million$229 million$98 million$375 million$83 million
Share Repurchases$29 million$13 million$20 million$42 million$117 million
Total Returned to Shareholders$129 million$242 million$119 million$417 million$200 million

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

As you can see, the company has repurchased a decent amount of its own stock. But combined with other rounds of share issuance, shares outstanding have actually increased:

 

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Shares Outstanding (millions)101100100100101

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Now, companies tend to be fairly poor at repurchasing their own shares, buying feverishly when shares are expensive and backing away when they're cheap. Does Federated Investors fall into this trap? Let's take a look:

anImage

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

This isn't impressive. Federated's largest buybacks over the last five years came when shares were at their peak, and buybacks tapered off substantially as shares fell. That's exactly the kind of behavior shareholders should look down upon -- buying high and ignoring opportunity low.

Finally, I like to look at how dividends have added to total shareholder returns:

anImage

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Shares returned -21% over the last five years, which drops to -42% without dividends -- a nice boost to top off otherwise poor performance.

To gauge how well a company is doing, keep an eye on the cash. How much a company earns is not as important as how much cash is actually coming in the door, and how much cash is coming in the door isn't as important as what management actually does with that cash. Remember, you, the shareholder, own the company. Are you happy with the way management has used Federated Investors' cash? Sound off in the comment section below.

At the time this article was published

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read Full Story

Want more news like this?

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from business news to personal finance tips delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners