|By Nathan Young|
June 8, 2017
Working capital is the current assets minus the current liabilities, and this number can be both positive or negative depending on the numbers populated in the equations. It is important to understand what goes into these types of formulas because you can then begin to pick it apart and pinpoint what causes the final number and that can potentially unearth different issues with a company.
Typically you want to see a company have a higher working capital number because that means the liabilities are not weighing the company down as much as it could. There are many avenues you can take this particular number and equations, so let us pick it apart and find what you may want to be looking for.
First are current assets and an asset is anything the company is using to generate revenue or house the business. Assets are the same across some industries, but typically they differ from company to company. A manufacturing firm will have different assets compared to a start up in Silicon Valley. When researching the assets, you want to know if they are in good working order and could potentially be liquidated in the event of a bankruptcy or financial distress.
Second are current liabilities and this encompasses the debt in a company, both long term and short term. If you look at debt, you want to understand why the debt is there in the first place. A reason could be the company is growing a needed the funds to purchase more assets and that is an acceptable answer. What you do not want is the company getting loans to pay off existing debt holders because that can signal a cash flow problem, which could ultimately bring down the business.
Bringing it all together, you want the working capital number to be as large as possible really, because that indicates there is little to no debt on the books and cash flow should not be an issue. However, it may be uncommon to find a business with no debt as many large companies have it for several of reasons. Be sure to fully understand the company’s intent and then move forward from there. If you get stuck, reach out to an investing and trading community as they can give you ideas on how to implement these numbers and gear it towards your current setup. If all else fails, reach out to an investing professional and they should be able to help you out. Working capital will be in almost all financial reports and should be in your toolbox.