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Sothebys's quarterly cash and cash equivalents increased from Sep. 2013 ($483.19 Mil) to Dec. 2013 ($721.32 Mil) but then declined from Dec. 2013 ($721.32 Mil) to Mar. 2014 ($322.22 Mil).
Sothebys's annual cash and cash equivalents declined from Dec. 2011 ($890.63 Mil) to Dec. 2012 ($768.35 Mil) and declined from Dec. 2012 ($768.35 Mil) to Dec. 2013 ($721.32 Mil).
Cash and cash equivalents are the most liquid assets on the balance sheet. Cash equivalents are assets that are readily convertible into cash, such as money market holdings, short-term government bonds or Treasury bills, marketable securities and commercial paper.
A high number means either:
1) The company has competitive advantage generating lots of cash
2) Just sold a business or bonds (not necessarily good)
A low stockpile of cash usually means poor to mediocre economics.
There are 3 ways to create large cash reserve.
1) Sell new bonds or equity to public
2) Sell business or asset
3) It has an ongoing business generating more cash than it burns (usually means durable competitive advantage)
When a company is suffering a short term problem, Buffett looks at cash or marketable securities to see whether it has the financial strength to ride it out.
Important: Lots of cash and marketable securities + little debt = good chance that the business will sail on through tough times.
Test to see what is creating cash by looking at past 7 yrs of balance sheets. This will reveal how the cash was created.
Sothebys Annual Data
Sothebys Quarterly Data