cash cow

noun
Updated on: 14 Nov 2017

Definition of cash cow

1 : a consistently profitable business, property, or product whose profits are used to finance a company's investments in other areas
2 : one regarded or exploited as a reliable source of money
  • a singer deemed a cash cow for the record label

Examples of cash cow in a Sentence

  1. The football team was a cash cow for the university.

  2. The movie studio saw the actress as a cash cow.

Recent Examples of cash cow from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cash cow.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of cash cow

1972


Financial Definition of CASH COW

cash cow

What It Is

A cash cow is a business unit, product line, or investment that has a return on assets (ROA) greater than the market growth rate. The idiom refers to the idea that it produces "milk" (profit) long after the cost of the investment has been recouped.

How It Works

For example, let's assume that Company XYZ has five divisions, one of which makes widgets. The widget division manufactures and sells 85% of the widgets in the United States and has an ROA of 30%. The widget business, which is very mature, grows about 5% per year. In this scenario, Company XYZ's widget division is a cash cow. The low growth of the market means little investment is needed, and the high ROA indicates that profits in the division should be high -- higher than what is needed to maintain market share (this, incidentally, is why the excess cash generated by a cash cow doesn't need to be, nor should it be, reinvested in the cash cow).

Cash cows usually have large market shares in mature industries. The higher market share often implies or translates into the ability to produce at a lower cost, and for them, there is usually little reason to spend money on capturing more market share. It is possible, however, for a cash cow to dry up if competitors capture enough additional market share.

Why It Matters

Cash cows generate steady, reliable cash flows that often fund their own growth and the growth of a company's other business units. They can also generate the cash companies need to pay dividends or finance other endeavors. Importantly, they are often the reason lenders are willing to lend money to a company -- that is, the cash cow is the source of the lender's assurance that the company can service the debt. Thus, cash cows enable companies to leverage themselves in pursuit of other high-return opportunities.


CASH COW Defined for English Language Learners

cash cow

noun

Definition of cash cow for English Language Learners

  • : someone or something that makes a lot of money for a business, organization, etc.


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