Even when a business is losing money, it's possible for shareholders to make money if they buy a good business at the right price. For example, biotech and mining exploration companies often lose money for years before finding success with a new treatment or mineral discovery. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?
So should Alien Metals (LON:UFO) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? In this report, we will consider the company's annual negative free cash flow, henceforth referring to it as the 'cash burn'. First, we'll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.
When Might Alien Metals Run Out Of Money?
A company's cash runway is the amount of time it would take to burn through its cash reserves at its current cash burn rate. When Alien Metals last reported its balance sheet in June 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth US$406k. Importantly, its cash burn was US$1.2m over the trailing twelve months. Therefore, from June 2019 it had roughly 4 months of cash runway. With a cash runway that short, we strongly believe that the company must raise cash or else douse its cash burn promptly. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.
How Is Alien Metals's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Alien Metals 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. Given the length of the cash runway, we'd interpret the 32% reduction in cash burn, in twelve months, as prudent if not necessary for capital preservation. Admittedly, we're a bit cautious of Alien Metals due to its lack of significant operating revenues. So we'd generally prefer stocks from this list of stocks that have analysts forecasting growth.
Can Alien Metals Raise More Cash Easily?
Even though it has reduced its cash burn recently, shareholders should still consider how easy it would be for Alien Metals to raise more cash in the future. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. Commonly, a business will sell new shares in itself to raise cash to drive growth. By looking at a company's cash burn relative to its market capitalisation, we gain insight on how much shareholders would be diluted if the company needed to raise enough cash to cover another year's cash burn.
Alien Metals's cash burn of US$1.2m is about 60% of its UK£1.6m market capitalisation. That's high expenditure relative to the value of the entire company, so if it does have to issue shares to fund more growth, that could end up really hurting shareholders returns (through significant dilution).
So, Should We Worry About Alien Metals's Cash Burn?
There are no prizes for guessing that we think Alien Metals's cash burn is a bit of a worry. In particular, we think its cash runway suggests it isn't in a good position to keep funding growth. While not as bad as its cash runway, its cash burn reduction is also a concern, and considering everything mentioned above, we're struggling to find much to be optimistic about. After considering the data discussed in this article, we don't have a lot of confidence that its cash burn rate is prudent, as it seems like it might need more cash soon. We think it's very important to consider the cash burn for loss making companies, but other considerations such as the amount the CEO is paid can also enhance your understanding of the business. You can click here to see what Alien Metals's CEO gets paid each year.
Of course Alien Metals 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.
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