An Investigation of the Relative and Incremental Predictive Ability of Accrual- and Cash-Based Accounting Measures for Future Cash Flows: Australian Evidence

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Ng, Chew

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Brimble, Mark

Monem, Reza

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This research aims to present an empirical investigation of the relative and incremental predictive ability of alternative accrual- and cash-based accounting measures to forecast future cash flows in an Australian context. To achieve this goal, eight ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models on pooled time-series of cross-sectional data are developed. To evaluate the forecasting performance of the models, both within-sample and out-of-sample forecasting tests are employed. A number of contextual factors, including the length of the operating cash cycle, industry membership, firm profitability and firm size, were taken into account in the main OLS regression analysis of this study to examine whether the predictive ability of accrual- and cash-based data to forecast future cash flows were influenced by these factors. In addition, a more sophisticated approach used for estimating regression models, namely fixed-effects, is undertaken to control for unobseved differences across firms.

Results from various regression model analyses suggest that cash flow from operations is more important than earnings in predicting future cash flows. Disaggregating earnings into cash flow from operations and accruals enhances the forecast of future cash flows, compared with aggregate earnings. The accrual component of earnings provides incremental information content for future cash flows beyond that provided by the cash flow component of earnings. Various decompositions of total accruals (i.e., current and non-current accruals, accrual components, and discretionary and nondiscretionary accruals) have incremental information content beyond that contained in total accruals. Disaggregating cash flow from operations into operating cash receipts and payments, as reported under the direct method of cash flow presentation, improves the predictive ability of aggregate cash flow from operations. Indirect cash flow information incrementally enhances the ability of direct cash flow components in forecasting future cash flows. This study also provides evidence that the model based on both accrual and cash flow components outperforms other existing cash flow prediction models. Various categorisations of the sample confirm that the findings are not conditional on the selected control factors. However, the results reveal new knowledge on the characteristics of accrual- and cash-based accounting data relating to future cash flows. For instance, this study documents that cash flow and its components (earnings and accruals) are more (less) informative to market participants in the forecast of a firm’s future cash flows when: (i) the firm is small; (ii) their operating cash cycle is short; and (iii) the firm makes a loss. Furthermore, the level of the predictive ability of both accrual- and cash-based accounting variables varies across industries.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics

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cash-based accounting measures

alternative accrual

future cash flows


eight ordinary least squares (OLS) regression model

regression model

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