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Accrual accounting, cash accounting and the estimation of future cash flows


  • Mottaghi, Aliasghar


This study investigates the predictive ability of current and past cash flows with respect to the estimation of future cash flow, and compares this predictive ability with that of current and past earnings. Future cash flow is estimated in this study on the basis of a model hierarchy that initially incorporates aggregated predictors and then their disaggregated components, with the objective of improving on conventional research design with respect to the problematic issues surrounding missing values in source databases, extreme values in the sampled data and variability in fiscal year length. In determining whether the disaggregation of earnings into cash flow, accruals and their components adds to the predictive ability of cash flow, the present thesis also documents out-of-sample accuracy tests for the UK based on initial in-sample estimations, with accruals being computed using both the information in the Statement of Cash Flows and the information that may be derived from Balance Sheet changes. Using the information in the Statement of Cash Flows, the results of the in-sample estimation indicate that, whilst there is no notable difference between the ability of cash flow and aggregate earnings to predict future cash flow, the disaggregation of earnings into cash flow and accruals improves the prediction. The out-of-sample accuracy tests confirm the standard result that this disaggregated earnings model is a better predictor of future cash flow. In contrast, this thesis shows that, when using information in the Balance Sheet, by way of changes from one period to the next, the results of both the in-sample estimation and the out-of-sample accuracy tests show that disaggregated earnings is unable to outperform aggregate earnings in predicting future cash flow. Nevertheless, when the total accrual is further disaggregated into its deferral and accrual components, in-sample estimation reveals additional improvement in predictive ability, using each of the two sources of information to compute total accruals (the Statement of Cash Flows and Balance Sheet changes), although this is less evident with the out-of-sample tests. Whilst further analysis indicates that disaggregation is more informative when the firm size is large, the magnitude of accruals is low and the firm reports a positive CFO and EBIT, the thesis shows that the ability of the estimation models to predict future cash flow differs across industries in the UK, and that the findings are generally sensitive to the effect of database choice, the fiscal year length, and the identification and treatment of unrecorded data.

Suggested Citation

  • Mottaghi, Aliasghar, 2011. "Accrual accounting, cash accounting and the estimation of future cash flows," Economics PhD Theses 0711, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
  • Handle: RePEc:sus:susphd:0711

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