How Profitable is Morgan Stanley (MS)?

Morgan Stanley, a large-cap investment banking company, moved -0.46% during today's morning session. The company's business may appear to be profitable at first glance, since its most recent operating margins stand at 0.52%. But there is more to the story.

Investors should review the company's profitability over several years, and also its ability to convert these profits into hard cash. Some profitable companies struggle in this respect. For example, an unexpected increase in capital expenditures, or an inability to collect payments from customers can quickly empty a company's coffers despite healthy profits on paper. Let's compare Morgan Stanley's operating profits and cash flows side-by-side to see this process firsthand.

Date Reported Revenue (k) Operating Expenses (k) Operating Margin YoY Growth
2022-12-31 $65,936,000 $18,971,000 0.52% -95.51%
2021-12-31 $61,121,000 $18,219,000 11.58% 93.65%
2020-12-31 $52,606,000 $15,009,000 5.98% 56.96%
2019-12-31 $53,942,000 $12,929,000 3.81% 111.15%
2018-12-31 $50,193,000 $28,438,000 -34.17% n/a
Date Reported Cash Flow from Operations (k) Capital Expenditures (k) Free Cash Flow (k) YoY Growth
2022-12-31 -$6,397,000 $3,078,000 -$9,475,000 -129.92%
2021-12-31 $33,971,000 $2,308,000 $31,663,000 218.7%
2020-12-31 -$25,231,000 $1,444,000 -$26,675,000 -168.49%
2019-12-31 $40,773,000 $1,826,000 $38,947,000 615.94%
2018-12-31 $7,305,000 $1,865,000 $5,440,000 n/a

Morgan Stanley's margins have a coefficient of variability of 739% and an average growth rate of 33.25%. Its free cash flow, on the other hand, has a coefficient of variability of 345% and an average growth rate of 107.25%.

Capital expenditures are indirectly taken into account in the income statement in the form of depreciation, which spreads out these one-time expenditures over several accounting periods. Accountants can control how much capital expenditures influence margins by simply changing the number of periods each capital expense is depreciated in. Such manipulation is visible when cash flow and margin trends are inconsistent.

When a company's margins and cash flows tell a similar story, you have good reason to believe the company is being honestly and effectively run.

The above analysis is intended for educational purposes only and was performed on the basis of publicly available data. It is not to be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Any buy, sell, or other recommendations mentioned in the article are direct quotations of consensus recommendations from the analysts covering the stock, and do not represent the opinions of Market Inference or its writers. Past performance, accounting data, and inferences about market position and corporate valuation are not reliable indicators of future price movements. Market Inference does not provide financial advice. Investors should conduct their own review and analysis of any company of interest before making an investment decision.