We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. For example, although software-as-a-service business Salesforce.com lost money for years while it grew recurring revenue, if you held shares since 2005, you'd have done very well indeed. But while the successes are well known, investors should not ignore the very many unprofitable companies that simply burn through all their cash and collapse.
Given this risk, we thought we'd take a look at whether Blue Energy (ASX:BLU) shareholders should be worried about its cash burn. In this article, we define cash burn as its annual (negative) free cash flow, which is the amount of money a company spends each year to fund its growth. Let's start with an examination of the business' cash, relative to its cash burn.
When Might Blue Energy Run Out Of Money?
You can calculate a company's cash runway by dividing the amount of cash it has by the rate at which it is spending that cash. Blue Energy has such a small amount of debt that we'll set it aside, and focus on the AU$3.3m in cash it held at December 2020. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through AU$2.1m. So it had a cash runway of approximately 19 months from December 2020. That's not too bad, but it's fair to say the end of the cash runway is in sight, unless cash burn reduces drastically. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.
How Is Blue Energy's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Blue Energy didn't record any revenue over the last year, indicating that it's an early stage company still developing its business. So while we can't look to sales to understand growth, we can look at how the cash burn is changing to understand how expenditure is trending over time. Over the last year its cash burn actually increased by 11%, which suggests that management are increasing investment in future growth, but not too quickly. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but investors should be mindful of the fact that will shorten the cash runway. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.
How Hard Would It Be For Blue Energy To Raise More Cash For Growth?
While Blue Energy does have a solid cash runway, its cash burn trajectory may have some shareholders thinking ahead to when the company may need to raise more cash. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash and fund growth. By comparing a company's annual cash burn to its total market capitalisation, we can estimate roughly how many shares it would have to issue in order to run the company for another year (at the same burn rate).
Since it has a market capitalisation of AU$97m, Blue Energy's AU$2.1m in cash burn equates to about 2.1% of its market value. So it could almost certainly just borrow a little to fund another year's growth, or else easily raise the cash by issuing a few shares.
Is Blue Energy's Cash Burn A Worry?
On this analysis of Blue Energy's cash burn, we think its cash burn relative to its market cap was reassuring, while its increasing cash burn has us a bit worried. Based on the factors mentioned in this article, we think its cash burn situation warrants some attention from shareholders, but we don't think they should be worried. On another note, Blue Energy has 4 warning signs (and 1 which is concerning) we think you should know about.
Of course Blue Energy may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of companies boasting high return on equity, or this list of stocks that insiders are buying.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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