Many investors consider it preferable to invest in profitable companies over unprofitable ones, because profitability suggests a business is sustainable. However, sometimes companies receive a one-off boost (or reduction) to their profit, and it’s not always clear whether statutory profits are a good guide, going forward. Today we’ll focus on whether this year’s statutory profits are a good guide to understanding AMCON Distributing (NYSEMKT:DIT).
While AMCON Distributing was able to generate revenue of US$1.06b in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of US$1.59m was more important. The chart below shows how it has grown revenue over the last three years, but that profit has declined.
Of course, it is only sensible to look beyond the statutory profits and question how well those numbers represent the sustainable earnings power of the business. So today we’ll look at what AMCON Distributing’s cashflow and unusual items tell us about the quality of its earnings. Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of AMCON Distributing.
A Closer Look At AMCON Distributing’s Earnings
Many investors haven’t heard of the accrual ratio from cashflow, but it is actually a useful measure of how well a company’s profit is backed up by free cash flow (FCF) during a given period. In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company’s average operating assets over that period. This ratio tells us how much of a company’s profit is not backed by free cashflow.
Therefore, it’s actually considered a good thing when a company has a negative accrual ratio, but a bad thing if its accrual ratio is positive. While having an accrual ratio above zero is of little concern, we do think it’s worth noting when a company has a relatively high accrual ratio. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.
Over the twelve months to March 2020, AMCON Distributing recorded an accrual ratio of 0.22. Therefore, we know that it’s free cashflow was significantly lower than its statutory profit, which is hardly a good thing. Even though it reported a profit of US$1.59m, a look at free cash flow indicates it actually burnt through US$20m in the last year. It’s worth noting that AMCON Distributing generated positive FCF of US$25m a year ago, so at least they’ve done it in the past. However, that’s not all there is to consider. We can see that unusual items have impacted its statutory profit, and therefore the accrual ratio. One positive for AMCON Distributing shareholders is that it’s accrual ratio was significantly better last year, providing reason to believe that it may return to stronger cash conversion in the future. As a result, some shareholders may be looking for stronger cash conversion in the current year.
The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit
AMCON Distributing’s profit suffered from unusual items, which reduced profit by US$2.9m in the last twelve months. In the case where this was a non-cash charge it would have made it easier to have high cash conversion, so it’s surprising that the accrual ratio tells a different story. While deductions due to unusual items are disappointing in the first instance, there is a silver lining. We looked at thousands of listed companies and found that unusual items are very often one-off in nature. And, after all, that’s exactly what the accounting terminology implies. AMCON Distributing took a rather significant hit from unusual items in the year to March 2020. As a result, we can surmise that the unusual items made its statutory profit significantly weaker than it would otherwise be.
Our Take On AMCON Distributing’s Profit Performance
AMCON Distributing saw unusual items weigh on its profit, which should have made it easier to show high cash conversion, which it did not do, according to its accrual ratio. Based on these factors, we think that AMCON Distributing’s profits are a reasonably conservative guide to its underlying profitability. So while earnings quality is important, it’s equally important to consider the risks facing AMCON Distributing at this point in time. When we did our research, we found 5 warning signs for AMCON Distributing (3 don’t sit too well with us!) that we believe deserve your full attention.
In this article we’ve looked at a number of factors that can impair the utility of profit numbers, as a guide to a business. But there are plenty of other ways to inform your opinion of a company. Some people consider a high return on equity to be a good sign of a quality business. While it might take a little research on your behalf, you may find this free collection of companies boasting high return on equity, or this list of stocks that insiders are buying to be useful.
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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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