Are HealthEquity’s (NASDAQ:HQY) Statutory Earnings A Good Reflection Of Its Earnings Potential?

As a general rule, we think profitable companies are less risky than companies that lose money. 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 HealthEquity (NASDAQ:HQY).

It’s good to see that over the last twelve months HealthEquity made a profit of US$53.0m on revenue of US$406.6m. At the risk of seeming quaint, we do like to at least examine profit, even when a stock is improving revenue and considered a ‘growth stock’. Happily, it has grown both its profit and revenue over the last three years (though we note its profit is down over the last year).

See our latest analysis for HealthEquity

NasdaqGS:HQY Income Statement, January 27th 2020
NasdaqGS:HQY Income Statement, January 27th 2020

Of course, when it comes to statutory profit, the devil is often in the detail, and we can get a better sense for a company by diving deeper into the financial statements. Therefore, today we will consider the nature of HealthEquity’s statutory earnings with reference to its dilution of shareholders and the impact of unusual items. That might leave you wondering what analysts are forecasting in terms of future profitability. Luckily, you can click here to see an interactive graph depicting future profitability, based on their estimates.

In order to understand the potential for per share returns, it is essential to consider how much a company is diluting shareholders. As it happens, HealthEquity issued 5.5% more new shares over the last year. That means its earnings are split among a greater number of shares. To celebrate net income while ignoring dilution is like rejoicing because you have a single slice of a larger pizza, but ignoring the fact that the pizza is now cut into many more slices. You can see a chart of HealthEquity’s EPS by clicking here.

A Look At The Impact Of HealthEquity’s Dilution on Its Earnings Per Share (EPS).

HealthEquity has improved its profit over the last three years, with an annualized gain of 108% in that time. In comparison, earnings per share only gained 87% over the same period. Net income was down 21% over the last twelve months. Unfortunately for shareholders, though, the earnings per share result was even worse, declining 25%. So you can see that the dilution has had a bit of an impact on shareholders.Therefore, the dilution is having a noteworthy influence on shareholder returnsAnd so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is influencing shareholder earnings.

If HealthEquity’s EPS can grow over time then that drastically improves the chances of the share price moving in the same direction. But on the other hand, we’d be far less excited to learn profit (but not EPS) was improving. For the ordinary retail shareholder, EPS is a great measure to check your hypothetical “share” of the company’s profit.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

On top of the dilution, we should also consider the US$35m impact of unusual items in the last year, which had the effect of suppressing profit. 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 that’s hardly a surprise given these line items are considered unusual. Assuming those unusual expenses don’t come up again, we’d therefore expect HealthEquity to produce a higher profit next year, all else being equal.

Our Take On HealthEquity’s Profit Performance

HealthEquity suffered from unusual items which depressed its profit in its last report; if that is not repeated then profit should be higher, all else being equal. But on the other hand, the company issued more shares, so without buying more shares each shareholder will end up with a smaller part of the profit. Considering all the aforementioned, we’d venture that HealthEquity’s profit result is a pretty good guide to its true profitability, albeit a bit on the conservative side. While it’s really important to consider how well a company’s statutory earnings represent its true earnings power, it’s also worth taking a look at what analysts are forecasting for the future. So feel free to check out our free graph representing analyst forecasts.

Our examination of HealthEquity has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. 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. 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.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

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