What is Operating Cash Flow?

Operating Cash Flow (OCF), also known as Cash Flow from Operations, is a financial metric that represents the amount of cash generated or used by a company’s core operating activities over a specific period, typically a quarter or a year. It provides insights into how well a company’s core business operations are generating cash flow, which is essential for sustaining and growing the business.

Operating cash flow reflects the cash inflows and outflows directly related to a company’s day-to-day operations, excluding cash flows from investing and financing activities. It takes into account the revenue generated from sales, as well as the various operating expenses, such as cost of goods sold, selling and marketing expenses, research and development costs, and other operational costs.

The formula to calculate Operating Cash Flow is generally as follows:

Operating Cash Flow = Net Income + Non-cash Expenses (e.g., depreciation, amortization) ± Changes in Working Capital


Net Income is the company’s profit after all expenses, taxes, and interest have been deducted from total revenue.
Non-cash Expenses include items like depreciation and amortization, which are accounting adjustments that don’t involve actual cash transactions.
Changes in Working Capital account for fluctuations in current assets (e.g., accounts receivable, inventory) and current liabilities (e.g., accounts payable, accrued expenses) over the period.
A positive operating cash flow indicates that the company’s core operations are generating more cash than they are consuming, which is generally a healthy sign. It means the company has the financial capacity to cover its operating expenses, invest in growth opportunities, and service its debt.

A negative operating cash flow suggests that the company’s core operations are consuming more cash than they are generating. While temporary negative cash flows might occur due to certain business cycles or investments, sustained negative cash flows could signal operational challenges, liquidity issues, or unsustainable business practices.

Operating cash flow is an important metric for investors, creditors, and management, as it provides insights into the company’s financial health, its ability to generate cash from its core operations, and its capacity to fund future growth and financial obligations.