What Is Cash Flow from Investing Activities?

Cash flow from investing activities is one of the sections on the cash flow statement that reports how much cash has been generated or spent from various investment-related activities in a specific period. Investing activities include purchases of physical assets, investments in securities, or the sale of securities or assets.

Negative cash flow is often indicative of a company's poor performance. However, negative cash flow from investing activities might be due to significant amounts of cash being invested in the long-term health of the company, such as research and development.

Understanding Cash Flow from Investing Activities

Before analyzing the different types of positive and negative cash flows from investing activities, it's important to review where a company's investment activity falls within its financial statements. There are three main financial statements: the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement.

The balance sheet provides an overview of a company's assets, liabilities, and owner's equity as of a specific date. The income statement provides an overview of company revenues and expenses during a period. The cash flow statement bridges the gap between the income statement and the balance sheet by showing how much cash is generated or spent on operating, investing, and financing activities for a specific period.

Key Takeaways

  • Cash flow from investing activities is a section of the cash flow statement that shows the cash generated or spent relating to investment activities.
  • Investing activities include purchases of physical assets, investments in securities, or the sale of securities or assets.
  • Negative cash flow from investing activities might not be a bad sign if management is investing in the long-term health of the company.

Types of Cash Flow

Overall, the cash flow statement provides an account of the cash used in operations, including working capital, financing, and investing. There are three sections–labeled activities–on the cash flow statement.

Cash Flow from Operating

Operating activities include any spending or sources of cash that's involved in a company's day-to-day business activities. Any cash spent or generated from the company's products or services is listed in this section, including:

  • Cash received from the sale of goods and services
  • Interest payments
  • Salary and wages paid
  • Payments to suppliers for inventory or goods needed for production
  • Income tax payments

Cash Flow from Financing

Cash generated or spent on financing activities shows the net cash flows involved in funding the company's operations. Financing activities include:

  • Dividend payments
  • Stock repurchases
  • Bond offerings–generating cash

Cash Flow from Investing

Cash flows from investing activities provides an account of cash used in the purchase of non-current assets–or long-term assets– that will deliver value in the future. 

Investing activity is an important aspect of growth and capital. A change to property, plant, and equipment (PPE), a large line item on the balance sheet, is considered an investing activity. When investors and analysts want to know how much a company spends on PPE, they can look for the sources and uses of funds in the investing section of the cash flow statement.

Capital expenditures (CapEx), also found in this section, is a popular measure of capital investment used in the valuation of stocks. An increase in capital expenditures means the company is investing in future operations. However, capital expenditures are a reduction in cash flow. Typically, companies with a significant amount of capital expenditures are in a state of growth.

Below are a few examples of cash flows from investing activities along with whether the items generate negative or positive cash flow.

  • Purchase of fixed assets–cash flow negative
  • Purchase of investments such as stocks or securities–cash flow negative
  • Lending money–cash flow negative
  • Sale of fixed assets–cash flow positive
  • Sale of investment securities–cash flow positive
  • Collection of loans and insurance proceeds–cash flow positive

If a company has differences in the values of its non-current assets from period-to-period (on the balance sheet), it might mean there's investing activity on the cash flow statement.

Example of Cash Flow from Investing Activities

Below is the cash flow statement from Apple Inc. (AAPL) according to the company's 10-Q report issued on June 29, 2019.

The three sections of Apple's statement of cash flows are listed with operating activities at the top and financing activities at the bottom of the statement (highlighted in orange). In the center, are the investing activities (highlighted in blue).

Investing activities that were cash flow negative are highlighted in red and include:

  • Purchases of marketable securities for $21.9 billion
  • Payments acquiring property, plant, and equipment for $7.7 billion
  • Payments for business acquisitions and non-marketable securities

Investing activities that were cash flow positive are highlighted in green and include:

  • Proceeds from maturities of marketable securities for $26.7 billion
  • Proceeds from the sale of marketable securities for $49.5 billion

The net cash flow generated from investing activities were $46.6 billion for the period ending June 29, 2019. Overall Apple had a positive cash flow from investing activity despite spending nearly $8 billion on new property, plant, and equipment.

Cash Flow Statement Example Apple Inc
Cash Flow Statement Investing Activities Example: Apple Inc.  Investopedia

As with any financial statement analysis, it's best to analyze the cash flow statement in tandem with the balance sheet and income statement to get a complete picture of a company's financial health.