贝索斯致股东信(2004)

qimoe 发布于 2 个月前

致我们的股东:

我们衡量公司财务信息的终极指标,也是我们用来拉动公司长期增长的指标,就是每股自由现金流。

为什么不像很多其他公司一样首先关注盈利呢?我们答案简单来说就是盈利不能直接反映为现金流,而股票的价值反映的是公司未来现金流的折现值而不是未来的盈利。未来的盈利是衡量未来现金流的重要成分,但不是唯一的成分。营运资本(Working capital)、资本支出(capital expenditures)和未来股权稀释一样都是重要的指标。

尽管听起来非常反直觉,但有的时候公司盈利却可能伤害股东的利益。当增长所需的投资超过了源自这些投资的现金流现值的时候,股东的利益实际是受损的(This happens when the capital investments required for growth exceed the present value of the cash flow derived from those investments)

(译者注:以下内容在张潇雨老师《商业经典案例课》的《亚马逊|公司价值的本质——自由现金流》中有更清楚的解释,请移步阅读)

举个简单的例子,想象一个人造出了一台瞬移机。这台机器很贵,1.6亿美金。一年能送10万人次,寿命是四年。每次收费1000,其中有450块是材料和能源成本,50块是人力和其他成本。

继续想象生意第一年很景气,机器完成了10万次运输,在除去各种费用及机器折旧之后还盈利1千万,也就是10%的净盈利。鉴于公司的首要目标是盈利,它决定第二年再买一台机器,第三年买两台,第四年买四台。

令人赞叹吧,每年一倍的增长,总共盈利1.5亿。如果投资者只考虑盈利应该感到非常满意。

但是,如果考虑现金流就是另外一回事了。在四年内,这项瞬移的生意累计了5.3亿的负现金流。

当然了,在很多其他情况下,盈利情况十分近似现金流情况,但是在我们的瞬移生意的例子里,我们发现,不能通过仅仅观察一家公司的盈利情况来判断股东的利益是增是减。

还要注意一下如果仅关注EBITDA(Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Aamortization),也一样会带来对企业健康的错误评估。每年的EBITDA分别是5千万、一亿、两亿和四亿,每年翻番。但是如果不考虑12.8亿用于产生这个“现金流”的资本支出,我们就没看到问题的全貌——EBITDA不是现金流。

那如果我们改变增长率,也相应改变购买机器的资本支出,现金流情况会变好还是变差?

看似矛盾的是,从现金流的角度,更慢的增速带来更好的现金流。一旦买下第一台机器,理想状况下的收益增长轨迹是迅速增长到100%,让后每年保持不变。但是即便只拥有这一台机器,直到第四年机器报废,毛累计现金流也没有超过最初的投入。也就意味着现金流现值一直是负的。

很不幸的是,我们瞬移的生意本质上就是存在问题的。经过计算,我们根本没道理买这台机器来做生意,这不能带来任何实质的增长。我们上述的例子非常极端也非常简单,投资者们随便算算就能知道这种生意是扯淡。尽管现实生活中情况会复杂许多,但是这种收益和现金流不能两全的情况还是比比皆是。

现金流的观点常常得不到应有的关注,但是有洞见的投资者们不会仅仅止步于看企业的收入。

我们最重要的财务指标:每股自由现金流

Amazon.com的财务目标是每股自由现金流的长期增长。

Amazon.com的自由现金流主要是受营业利润驱动的,同时加上妥善管理营运资本和资本支出。我们通过全方位提升用户体验来拉动销售,同时控制成本结构,两相促进来增加营业利润。

我们有一个“白赚钱营业周期(cash generative operating cycle,见下段)”,因为我们库存周转特别快,在付钱给买房之前就能收到买方的款项。我们周转率快也就意味着我们在库存上的投入就会更少——去年70亿的生意里我们只花了4.8亿在库存上。

(The operating cycle is number of days of sales in inventory plus number of days of sales in accounts receivable minus accounts payable days. 译者注:隔行如隔山,我每个词都懂就是不好翻译,多多包涵)

我们的资本效率体现在非常低的固定资本投入上,只占了2004年销售额的4%(2.46亿)

2004年我们的自由现金流从1.31亿增至4.77亿,增幅38%。我们十分自信,如果我们继续改善用户体验并继续降低价格,我们的价值主张和现金流都会变得更好

之余股权稀释,已发行股票总量加上和股票激励和2003年保持不变,跟3年前比降低了1%。同时我们还将600万份可能被稀释的股权转成了6亿在2009和2010年到期的可转债。有效管理股票的发行量意味着更高的每股平均现金流和更客观的长期价值。

对于现金流的关注并不新,我们早在1997年的致股东信中就已经提出。我附了那一封信,并希望现在的和未来的股东们可以读一下。

一如既往,我代表Amazon.com感谢用户对我的信任,感谢员工的努力工作,感谢股东的支持和鼓励。

Jeffrey P. Bezos

(Vinchent翻译)


英文原文

To our shareholders:

Our ultimate financial measure, and the one we most want to drive over the long-term, is free cash flow per share.

Why not focus first and foremost, as many do, on earnings, earnings per share or earnings growth? The simple answer is that earnings don’t directly translate into cash flows, and shares are worth only the present value of their future cash flows, not the present value of their future earnings. Future earnings are a component—but not the only important component—of future cash flow per share. Working capital and capital expenditures are also important, as is future share dilution.

Though some may find it counterintuitive, a company can actually impair shareholder value in certain circumstances by growing earnings. This happens when the capital investments required for growth exceed the present value of the cash flow derived from those investments.

To illustrate with a hypothetical and very simplified example, imagine that an entrepreneur invents a machine that can quickly transport people from one location to another. The machine is expensive—$160 million with an annual capacity of 100,000 passenger trips and a four year useful life. Each trip sells for $1,000 and requires $450 in cost of goods for energy and materials and $50 in labor and other costs.

Continue to imagine that business is booming, with 100,000 trips in Year 1, completely and perfectly utilizing the capacity of one machine. This leads to earnings of $10 million after deducting operating expenses including depreciation—a 10% net margin. The company’s primary focus is on earnings; so based on initial results the entrepreneur decides to invest more capital to fuel sales and earnings growth, adding additional machines in Years 2 through 4.

Here are the income statements for the first four years of business:

 

It’s impressive: 100% compound earnings growth and $150 million of cumulative earnings. Investors considering only the above income statement would be delighted.

However, looking at cash flows tells a different story. Over the same four years, the transportation business generates cumulative negative free cash flow of $530 million.

 

There are of course other business models where earnings more closely approximate cash flows. But as our transportation example illustrates, one cannot assess the creation or destruction of shareholder value with certainty by looking at the income statement alone.

Notice, too, that a focus on EBITDA—Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization— would lead to the same faulty conclusion about the health of the business. Sequential annual EBITDA would have been $50, $100, $200 and $400 million—100% growth for three straight years. But without taking into account the $1.28 billion in capital expenditures necessary to generate this ‘cash flow,’ we’re getting only part of the story—EBITDA isn’t cash flow.

What if we modified the growth rates and, correspondingly, capital expenditures for machinery—would cash flows have deteriorated or improved?

 

Paradoxically, from a cash flow perspective, the slower this business grows the better off it is. Once the initial capital outlay has been made for the first machine, the ideal growth trajectory is to scale to 100% of capacity quickly, then stop growing. However, even with only one piece of machinery, the gross cumulative cash flow doesn’t surpass the initial machine cost until Year 4 and the net present value of this stream of cash flows (using 12% cost of capital) is still negative.

Unfortunately our transportation business is fundamentally flawed. There is no growth rate at which it makes sense to invest initial or subsequent capital to operate the business. In fact, our example is so simple and clear as to be obvious. Investors would run a net present value analysis on the economics and quickly determine

it doesn’t pencil out. Though it’s more subtle and complex in the real world, this issue—the duality between earnings and cash flows—comes up all the time.

Cash flow statements often don’t receive as much attention as they deserve. Discerning investors don’t stop with the income statement.

Our Most Important Financial Measure: Free Cash Flow Per Share

Amazon.com’s financial focus is on long-term growth in free cash flow per share.

Amazon.com’s free cash flow is driven primarily by increasing operating profit dollars and efficiently managing both working capital and capital expenditures. We work to increase operating profit by focusing on improving all aspects of the customer experience to grow sales and by maintaining a lean cost structure.

We have a cash generative operating cycle1 because we turn our inventory quickly, collecting payments from our customers before payments are due to suppliers. Our high inventory turnover means we maintain relatively low levels of investment in inventory—$480 million at year end on a sales base of nearly $7 billion.

The capital efficiency of our business model is illustrated by our modest investments in fixed assets, which were $246 million at year end or 4% of 2004 sales.

Free cash flow2 grew 38% to $477 million in 2004, a $131 million improvement over the prior year. We are confident that if we continue to improve customer experience—including increasing selection and lowering prices—and execute efficiently, our value proposition, as well as our free cash flow, will further expand.

As to dilution, total shares outstanding plus stock-based awards are essentially unchanged at the end of 2004 compared with 2003, and are down 1% over the last three years. During that same period, we’ve also eliminated over six million shares of potential future dilution by repaying more than $600 million of convertible debt that was due in 2009 and 2010. Efficiently managing share count means more cash flow per share and more long term value for owners.

This focus on free cash flow isn’t new for Amazon.com. We made it clear in our 1997 letter to shareholders—our first as a public company—that when “forced to choose between optimizing GAAP accounting and maximizing the present value of future cash flows, we’ll take the cash flows.” I’m attaching a copy of our complete 1997 letter and encourage current and prospective shareowners to take a look at it.

As always, we at Amazon.com are grateful to our customers for their business and trust, to each other for our hard work, and to our shareholders for their support and encouragement.

Jeffrey P. Bezos

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Amazon.com, Inc.

April 2005

1 The operating cycle is number of days of sales in inventory plus number of days of sales in accounts receivable minus accounts payable days.

2 Free cash flow is defined as net cash provided by operating activities less purchases of fixed assets, including capitalized internal-use software and website development, both of which are presented on our statements of cash flows. Free cash flow for 2004 of $477 million is net cash provided by operating activities of $567 million less purchases of fixed assets, including capitalized internal-use software and website development costs, of $89 million. Free cash flow for 2003 of $346 million is net cash provided by operating activities of $392 million less purchases of fixed assets, including capitalized internal-use software and website development costs, of $46 million.