What is Capital Expenditure: Definition, Formula, and Examples

21 May, 2024
10 mins
Vipul Taneja, VP, Finance Transformation

Table of Content

Key Takeaways
What is a Capital Expenditure (CapEx)?
Types of CapEx
Examples of CapEx
CapEx on the Cash Flow Statement
CapEx on the Balance Sheet 
Formula and Calculation of CapEx
How to Calculate Net Capital Expenditure?
Capital Expenditure and Depreciation
Importance of Capital Expenditures
Challenges with Capital Expenditures
How HighRadius Can Help in Effective Capital Expenditure Management?

Key Takeaways

  • Capital expenditures involve investments in physical assets like property, equipment, machines, vehicles, and assets such as technology, software, and intellectual property.
  • Net capital expenditure provides a clear picture of the net cash flow related to capital investments and assesses the overall impact on a company’s asset base.
  • Leveraging AI capabilities to effectively manage CapEx helps stakeholders achieve a better understanding of expected ROI and cash flow implications.


Financial metrics help organizations assess financial performance, make well-informed decisions, and foster growth. Capital expenditure is one such important metric for companies of all sizes. It signifies the investments made by a company to ensure its sustainability.

Capital expenditure, or CapEx refers to allocating funds toward acquiring, upgrading, or sustaining long-term assets that are crucial for a business’s functioning. These assets can encompass physical infrastructure, equipment, technology systems, and even intellectual properties. 

In this blog, we will comprehend the meaning of capital expenditure, and its significance in financial decision-making, and explore how businesses can effectively manage their financial resources while maximizing returns from their long-term asset investments.

What is a Capital Expenditure (CapEx)?

CapEx, or capital expenditure, is a financial term that refers to the funds allocated by the company for the purchase of long-term assets. These comprise funds allocated for acquiring, renovating, and maintaining assets. It’s through these assets that businesses are able to carry out their day-to-day operational activities and earn revenues over a period of time. 

Capital expenditure involves the acquisition of various fixed assets, such as land, buildings, machines, vehicles, and other physical resources, along with investments in software and research projects. CapEx helps to augment a company’s productive capacity, increase efficiency, or enhance competitiveness. These expenditures affect the organization positively over time by enhancing growth rates, profitability levels, and operational abilities. The resources for the capital expenditure are normally determined using crucial factors such as ROI, potential cash flow variance, risk assessment, and the overall financial soundness of the investment. 

Types of CapEx

There are several types of CapEx that businesses commonly engage in. Here are some of the main types:

Types of CapEx

Expansion CapEx

Expansion CapEx involves investments made to expand the business’s capacity or reach. It can include acquiring new property or land, constructing additional facilities or production lines, and expanding into new markets or geographic locations.

Replacement CapEx

Replacement CapEx refers to investing in new assets to replace or enhance old, obsolete assets. This might include upgrading old machines, equipment, or technology systems to newer, more effective models.

Maintenance CapEx

Maintenance CapEx involves expenditures incurred to maintain and preserve the functionality and value of existing assets. This can include routine repairs, refurbishments, and ongoing maintenance activities that ensure the longevity and optimal performance of the assets.

Research and Development (R&D) CapEx

R&D CapEx involves investments in research and development activities aimed at innovation, product development, and technological advancements. This type of CapEx is generally focused on developing new systems or technologies, creating new tech stacks, or even revamping existing ones. 

IT and Technology CapEx 

IT and Technology CapEx encompasses investments in information technology infrastructure, software systems, and digital technologies. This can include investments in hardware, software licenses, network infrastructure, cloud computing, and cybersecurity measures.

Examples of CapEx

Different types of assets contribute to the long-term growth of any business. For businesses of different sizes, CapEx is different. Here are some examples: 

  • Purchasing properties like land, office space, storage units, or any other real estate for business purposes. 
  • Buying machines, vehicles, construction equipment, and tools, for productions or operations. 
  • Investment in technological aspects such as servers, and computers; including hardware and software systems. 
  • Investments in upgrading or improving existing assets, such as modernizing production lines, enhancing equipment efficiency, or implementing energy-saving measures.
  • Procuring assets such as IP, copyrights, trademarks, and licenses. 

Let’s consider a company that manufactures electronic devices and has been operating from its current facility for over a decade now. As the business grew and the demand for their products increased, their facility was no longer able to handle the production capacity. Recognizing the need for expansion, the stakeholders decided to allocate significant CapEx towards attaining a bigger facility. 

The primary objective of this investment is to increase production capacity, enhance the quality of the product, and meet growing customer demand. The funds allocated for the expansion were used to upgrade to a large facility, upgrade the machinery and equipment, and enhance the technology infrastructure. With this strategic decision to upgrade, the company experienced improved production efficiency, increased output capacity, and an improved supply chain. The company was able to enhance its competitive position, meet evolving market demands, and achieve sustainable growth.

Let’s take a closer look at a real-world example to understand CapEx

Let’s take Amazon, a leading e-commerce company to understand its capital expenditure. Amazon receives thousands of orders every day. They always have to keep up with demand, maintain their logistics, and ensure timely deliveries. To achieve this, Amazon invests in storage facilities, warehouses, and distribution centers worldwide. Amazon invests its CapEx budget in building and maintaining physical assets to enhance operational performance, decrease delivery times, and meet the increasing customer demand. This investment in CapEx, allows Amazon to expand its operations worldwide, and improve its customer service and experience through timely delivery. 

CapEx on the Cash Flow Statement

CapEx on the Cash Flow Statement

Let’s take a look at the cash flow statement of Amazon’s 2023 annual report. In some cases, you’ll find a CapEx section but usually, CapEx is found in the investing section of the statement of the cash flows. As you can see in the screenshot above, in the year 2023, Amazon had $5.2B of capital expenditure related to “Purchases of property and equipment.” Source

CapEx on the Balance Sheet 

CapEx on the Balance Sheet

Let’s take a look at the balance sheet of Amazon’s FORM 10-Q. Capital expenditures are recorded in the property, and equipment (PE) line item, which represents long-term assets such as buildings, vehicles or machinery. The value of these assets slowly depreciates over time. As you can see in the screenshot above, in Q1 2023, Amazon invested, $1.9B of capital expenditure related to PE. Source

Formula and Calculation of CapEx

The formula for the CapEx is: 

CapEx = Ending Net Fixed Assets – Beginning Net Fixed Assets + Depreciation

Let’s consider an example where a company had beginning net fixed assets of $500,000, ending net fixed assets of $700,000, and depreciation expense of $100,000 during the designated period.

CapEx = $700,000 – $500,000 + $100,000

CapEx = $300,000

In this example, the company’s Capital Expenditure during the specified period amounts to $300,000.

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How to Calculate Net Capital Expenditure?

Net capital expenditure refers to the remaining funds used to obtain or enhance fixed assets after deducting the revenue generated from selling fixed assets. It refers to the difference between overall capital expenditure and the earnings from selling fixed assets.

It helps in evaluating the efficiency of capital allocation, assessing the impact on the company’s asset base, and understanding the overall investment trends over time. 

Let’s consider a company that produces electronic devices. To expand its production and upgrade its equipment, it invested in CapEx where; 

Total Capital Expenditure: $500,000

Proceeds from Sale of Fixed Assets: $100,000


Net Capital Expenditure = Total Capital Expenditure – Proceeds from Sale of Fixed Assets

Net Capital Expenditure = $500,000 – $100,000

Net Capital Expenditure = $400,000

The positive $400,000 reflects that the company allocated a net amount of $400,000 towards investing in fixed assets. This amount is obtained after considering the proceeds obtained from the sale of other fixed assets.

Capital Expenditure and Depreciation

CapEx and depreciation are closely related financial metrics. When managing and assessing a company’s assets and expenses, it is very important to monitor Capex and depreciation. When capital expenditures are used over some time, they are depreciated. 

Depreciation refers to the decline in the value of long-term assets over time. Capital expenditure and depreciation are interconnected because CapEx investments in long-term assets are subjected to depreciation. When a company invests in CapEx, the cost is recorded as a long-term asset on the balance sheet. Over time, this asset’s value is gradually reduced through depreciation expense, reflecting the asset’s consumption or decrease in value. 

Importance of Capital Expenditures

CapEx plays a key role in enabling stakeholders to determine the profitability of assets from a strategic financial planning standpoint. Without CapEx, businesses cannot survive. CapEx helps businesses grow and ensures sustainability. Here are the key areas where capital expenditures are extremely important: 

Importance of Capital Expenditures

Budgeting and financial planning

Cash expenditure plays a crucial role in budgeting and financial planning. By monitoring and analyzing cash outflows, businesses can develop realistic budgets and forecast future cash requirements. This enables better decision-making regarding resource allocation, investment opportunities, and cost management strategies.

Liquidity management

Understanding and controlling cash expenditure is vital for maintaining adequate cash reserves and avoiding cash flow shortages. By tracking cash outflows, businesses can ensure they have sufficient funds to meet their day-to-day expenses, such as payroll, rent, utilities, and supplier payments. 

Investment analysis 

Cash expenditure is a critical factor when evaluating investment decisions. By considering the cash outflows required for an investment, businesses can assess the feasibility and profitability of a project. Analyzing the cash expenditure associated with various investment options helps determine the potential return on investment (ROI).

Long-Term sustainability

Investments in capital expenditure help in long-term financial sustainability by supporting growth initiatives, and mitigating financial risks. CapEx allows companies to invest in growth opportunities that can contribute to their long-term sustainability. 

Challenges with Capital Expenditures

Capital expenditures, while important for business growth and sustainability, come with several challenges that organizations need to address. Here are some common challenges associated with capital expenditures:

Capital budgeting

Organizations often face limited capital budgets and need to prioritize among competing investment opportunities. Allocating budgets to various opportunities while making sure that they offer the highest ROI can be quite challenging for stakeholders. 

Cost estimation

Estimating and allocating cash expenditures can be challenging as it requires significant upfront investments. Inaccurate cost estimations can lead to budget overruns, delays, and financial strain.


Once the investment is made for CapEx, it is very challenging to recover it without loss. Since CapEx tends to depreciate over time, careful financial analysis and ROI evaluation are extremely important. 

Unpredictable changes

Sometimes, even though the investment is made after careful consideration and analysis, the returns from the CapEx can be uncertain. The factors behind the uncertainty could be market uncertainties, technological changes, regulatory changes, tax regulations, and cost overruns. 

How HighRadius Can Help in Effective Capital Expenditure Management?

Before investing in capital expenditures, you should make sure to thoroughly analyze the expected ROI and the potential sustainability it offers. This analysis can be challenging, but with effective cash flow management software, you can streamline the process. HighRadius cash flow forecasting software allows organizations to accurately project their cash inflows and outflows. This helps in planning and managing capital expenditures by providing visibility into the availability of funds and ensuring that sufficient cash is allocated for planned projects. With real-time visibility into the cash position, you can monitor and control expenses better. 

Additionally, with scenario analysis, you can quickly build and run scenarios to compare the effects of unprecedented economic events or business decisions against the base-case forecast. This will further help to maintain the financial stability of the businesses and avoid cash deficits. Organizations can track key performance indicators (KPIs) related to capital expenditures, such as return on investment (ROI), payback period, or cost savings achieved. This enables informed decision-making and ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of capital expenditure initiatives.

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1) Where can I find capital expenditures in financial statements? 

Capital expenditures can be found in the cash flow statement under “Cash Flows from Investing Activities” and in the balance sheet, CapEx investment is in the section “property, plant, and equipment” (PP&E). 

2) How to find net capital spending?

Net Capital Spending = (Ending Net Fixed Assets – Beginning Net Fixed Assets) + Depreciation. Find the beginning and ending value of fixed assets in the financial statement. This will give you the total net fixed assets. When you add it to the depreciation, it will give you the net capital spending. 

3) What does CapEx stand for? 

CapEx stands for capital expenditures. It is the funds used by an organization to acquire, upgrade, or maintain long-term assets such as property, plant, and equipment (PP&E). CapEx is typically made to generate future benefits and is reflected as investments in the financial statements.

4) What is the CapEx Budget? 

A CapEx budget is a financial plan that outlines the projected spending on long-term assets during a specific period, typically a fiscal year. The CapEx budget helps organizations allocate funds, prioritize investment projects, and ensure proper planning and control over their expenditures.

5) What is CapEx valuation? 

CapEx valuation refers to the process of assessing and determining the value of capital expenditures made by an organization. It involves evaluating the expected return on investment (ROI) and the financial impact of the capital project. 

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