Is Cash Rich Japan Foods Holding Ltd A Buy?

“Cash, though, is to a business as oxygen is to an individual: never thought about when it is present, the only thing in mind when it is absent. When bills come due, only cash is legal tender. Don’t leave home without it.”

— Warren Buffett

As we search for positive signs in a new company, the cash flowing through the firm may be one thing worth looking up. In particular, the cash conversion cycle of a company may be of interest to the Foolish investor.

Turning goods into cash

Simply said, the cash conversion cycle is the number of days it takes for a company to 1) convert cash in the bank into inventory, 2) sell that inventory, and 3) receive the cash from the sale. The shorter the cycle goes, the better.

To learn how to calculate the cash conversion cycle, go here.

Let’s run the Japanese food purveyor, Japan Foods Holding Ltd (SGX: 5OI), through this calculation today; we will be using the figures for the firm’s financial year ended 31 March 2014 (FY 2014).

We start with the Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO) metric. DIO is the number of days that it takes for a company to sell its entire inventory. Generally speaking, the lower the number of days, the more effective the company’s inventory management is.

Below is a summary table with all the relevant figures.

2014 JFood DIO

Source: Japan Food’s earnings report

Next up, we have the Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) figure. DSO represents the amount of time it takes the company, on average, to receive money after it has sold a good or service. Having a lower DSO usually indicates that a company is good at credit management.

2014 JFoods DSO

Source: Japan Food’s earnings report

Finally, we come to the Days Payable Outstanding (DPO), which is the number of days it takes a company to pay its suppliers after their products have arrived. In general, having a longer payment term is better for a company.

2014 JFoods DPO

Source: Japan Food’s earnings report

Pulling it together

The cash conversion cycle can now be put together by adding the DIO with DSO and subtracting the DPO. Doing so would give Japan Foods a cash conversion cycle of -27 days for FY2014 (20 + 4 – 51 = -27).

What this means is that Japan Foods is able to buy goods and sell it to its customers, and then collect the cash from the sale, about 27 days before it has to pay its suppliers. This would be helpful for Japan Foods as the negative cash conversion cycle would mean that the firm requires less cash to be tied up in the daily operations of its business.

Over time, tracking the changes in the cash conversion cycle of a company may help the Foolish investor understand the business changes that the company makes and whether those changes helps bring in the cash faster.

With that, the Foolish investor would be in a better position to decide if Japan Food’s current share price provides an appropriate margin of safety and whether it fits into his or her portfolio.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Chin Hui Leong doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.