Are Stitch Fix’s (NASDAQ:SFIX) Statutory Earnings A Good Guide To Its Underlying Profitability?

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. This article will consider whether Stitch Fix‘s (NASDAQ:SFIX) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.

While Stitch Fix was able to generate revenue of US$1.58b in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of US$36.9m was more important.

Check out our latest analysis for Stitch Fix

NasdaqGS:SFIX Income Statement, December 10th 2019
NasdaqGS:SFIX Income Statement, December 10th 2019

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 Stitch Fix’s cashflow tells us about its earnings, as well as examining how issuing shares is impacting shareholder value. 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.

Zooming In On Stitch Fix’s Earnings

In high finance, the key ratio used to measure how well a company converts reported profits into free cash flow (FCF) is the accrual ratio (from cashflow). To get the accrual ratio we first subtract FCF from profit for a period, and then divide that number by the average operating assets for the period. This ratio tells us how much of a company’s profit is not backed by free cashflow.

As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. While it’s not a problem to have a positive accrual ratio, indicating a certain level of non-cash profits, a high accrual ratio is arguably a bad thing, because it indicates paper profits are not matched by cash flow. To quote a 2014 paper by Lewellen and Resutek, “firms with higher accruals tend to be less profitable in the future”.

Stitch Fix has an accrual ratio of -0.21 for the year to August 2019. That implies it has very good cash conversion, and that its earnings in the last year actually significantly understate its free cash flow. In fact, it had free cash flow of US$48m in the last year, which was a lot more than its statutory profit of US$36.9m. Stitch Fix did see its free cash flow drop year on year, which is less than ideal, like a Simpson’s episode without Groundskeeper Willie.

Unfortunately for shareholders, the company has also been issuing new shares, diluting their share of future earnings.

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, Stitch Fix issued 30% more new shares over the last year. Therefore, each share now receives a smaller portion of profit. 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. Check out Stitch Fix’s historical EPS growth by clicking on this link.

How Is Dilution Impacting Stitch Fix’s Earnings Per Share? (EPS)

We don’t have any data on the company’s profits from three years ago. On the bright side, in the last twelve months it grew profit by 2.4%. But earnings per share are actually down 21%, over that same period. This shows how dangerous it is to rely on net income alone, when measuring growth. And so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is having a rather significant impact on shareholders.

If Stitch Fix’s EPS can grow over time then that drastically improves the chances of the share price moving in the same direction. However, if its profit increases while its earnings per share stay flat (or even fall) then shareholders might not see much benefit. For the ordinary retail shareholder, EPS is a great measure to check your hypothetical “share” of the company’s profit.

Our Take On Stitch Fix’s Profit Performance

In conclusion, Stitch Fix has a strong cashflow relative to earnings, which indicates good quality earnings, but the dilution means its earnings per share are dropping faster than its profit. Considering all the aforementioned, we’d venture that Stitch Fix’s profit result is a pretty good guide to its true profitability, albeit a bit on the conservative side. Obviously, we love to consider the historical data to inform our opinion of a company. But it can be really valuable to consider what other analysts are forecasting. Luckily, you can check out what analysts are forecsting by clicking here.

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. For example, many people consider a high return on equity as an indication of favorable business economics, while others like to ‘follow the money’ and search out stocks that insiders are buying. 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.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.