Capex (Capital Expenditure)

What is Capex (Capital Expenditure)?

Capex or Capital Expenditure is the expense on the total purchases of assets made by the company during a given period of time and it is calculating by adding the net increase in the value of Plant, property, and equipment and Depreciation expense during the particular fiscal year.

In simple words, it refers to the financial outlay for buying, maintaining, or improving the fixed assets base (such as plant, property, and equipment) of the company. The money spent is considered for the sole purpose of buying new fixed assets, repairing the existing fixed assets, or upgrading the existing capacity of the fixed assets. Capital expenditure is a major financial decision for a company, must be formally approved at an annual shareholders meeting or a special meeting of the Board of Directors.

Capital Expenditure

Capex includes:

  • buying fixed assets and sometimes intangible assets
  • repairing an existing asset to improve its useful life
  • upgrading an existing asset to increase its performance

Capital Expenditure Accounting

Going by the general rules of Capex accounting, if the acquired property’s useful life is longer than the taxable year, then the cost must be capitalized. This cost is not charged to the profit and loss statement at once in the taxable year but is spread over the useful life of the asset in the form of amortization and depreciation.

#1 – Effect on Balance Sheet

The entire capital expenditure cost is capitalized on the asset side of the balance sheet. It increases the non-current asset base of the entity, while at the same time reducing the cash balance of the entity.

Capex on Balance Sheet

#2 – Effect on Income Statement

The capital expenditure costs are amortized or depreciated through profit and loss statement over the useful life of the asset.


source: Ford SEC Filings

#3 – Effect on Cash Flow Statement

Since the reduction in the cash balance of the entity is reflected in the balance sheet as at the end of the taxable year, this financial outlay does get reflected in cash flow statement from investing activities section as capital spending, purchases of property, plant, and equipment (PPE), acquisition expense, etc.

Capex - Cash Flow Statement

Walmart Example

Shown below is the capital expenditure example of Walmart Inc. from its 2018 10-k SEC filings.

Walmart Inc example

  • From the above snippet of the cash flow statement, it can be clearly seen that Walmart spent $10,051 million to buy property and equipment in the financial year.
  • Since the expenditure was towards buying the fixed assets and the amount is huge for it to be expensed in the income statement all at once, this expenditure could be classified as capital expenditure.
  • More information about the exact nature could be found out if one digs into the notes of the company, which could be found in their financial filings.
  • Many times, a pattern could be seen in such expenditures of the company. It could reflect that the company is expanding aggressively as per the strategic decision of the board of the company in order to cater to a larger market share.

Capex is Different from Other Expenses

Some industries are more capital-intensive, and some are less capital-intensive. The capital expenditures of an entity depending on the industry it operates in. Capital-intensive industries, like oil exploration and production, like telecommunication, like manufacturing, and utility industries, have the highest levels.

  • The capital expenditures are different from operating expenses (also known as Opex) as the Opex or the revenue expenses are fully text-deductible in the same year in which the expenses occur.
  • Also, these expenditure is a non-recurring strategic financial outlay that impacts the long-term asset base or something that could not be deducted in full in the year in which it was incurred and hence is amortized over the useful life of the capital asset.
  • For example, buying a new car is a capital expenditure which could be amortized over its useful life (generally accepted as 5 years by the accounting rules and industry norms). Though after 5 years the car could still be in working condition, its value could only be charged to profit and loss statement only during the useful life for the tax-deductible purpose.

How to use of Capex?

#1 – CFO to Capex Ratio

Cash Flow to Capex

Cash flow from operations to Capex is a very important ratio used by Financial Analysts. It is as follows:

CapEx Formula

If the ratio is greater than 1, it could mean that the company’s operations are generating cash, sufficient to fund its asset acquisitions. On the other hand, if the ratio is less than 1, it could mean that the company may need to borrow money to fund its purchase of capital assets.

#2 – Calculating FCFF

Also, CapEx is used in calculating the Free Cash Flow for the Firm (FCFF) as follows:

CapEx example

Presented below is the Free Cash Flow to the Firm of Alibaba.Alibaba - FCFF Free Cash Flows

#3 – Calculating FCFE

Ans, CapEx is used in calculating the Free Cash Flow for the Equity Holders (FCFE) as follows:

CapEx example1

Below is the FCFE calculation of Alibaba.

Alibaba IPO FCFE Forecasts


  • Capital expenditures refer to the strategic financial outlay of funds for the purchase, improvement, or maintenance of long-term assets to improve the efficiency or capacity of the company. Long-term assets are usually physical, fixed, and non-consumable assets like property, equipment, or infrastructure that have a useful life of more than one accounting period and intangible assets such as software, patent, or license depending on the business of the company.
  • CapEx is stated in the cash flow statement under the investing activities section as capital spending, purchases of property, plant, equipment (PPE) and acquisition expense, etc. The substantial effect of CapEx on the short-term and long-term financial standing of an organization warrants to making wise expenditure decisions of critical importance to the financial health of a company.
  • Many companies try to maintain the levels of their historical capital expenditure to show investors that the managers of the company are investing effectively in the business, and there are ample opportunities for growth in their business instead of making an idle pile of cash sitting in their balance sheet.
  • These expenditure decisions are very critical to an organization due to their substantial initial costs, irreversibility, and long-term effects. Therefore, budgeting for capital expenditures ought to be carefully and efficiently planned and executed.

Capital Expenditure (Capex) Video

Recommended Articles

This article has been a guide to what is Capex? Here we discuss the effect of Capex on Balance Sheet, Income Statement, and Cash Flows. Here we also discuss Capex formula and its uses in the financial analysis, including CFO to Capex, FCFF, and FCFE. You may learn more about accounting from the following articles –

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