Can Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSE:NDM) Afford To Invest In Growth?

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. Nonetheless, only a fool would ignore the risk that a loss making company burns through its cash too quickly.

So should Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSE:NDM) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? For the purpose of this article, we’ll define cash burn as the amount of cash the company is spending each year to fund its growth (also called its negative free cash flow). First, we’ll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.

See our latest analysis for Northern Dynasty Minerals

When Might Northern Dynasty Minerals Run Out Of Money?

A cash runway is defined as the length of time it would take a company to run out of money if it kept spending at its current rate of cash burn. When Northern Dynasty Minerals last reported its balance sheet in June 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth CA$10m. In the last year, its cash burn was CA$72m. So it had a cash runway of approximately 2 months from June 2019. It’s extremely surprising to us that the company has allowed its cash runway to get that short! Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.

TSX:NDM Historical Debt, November 8th 2019
TSX:NDM Historical Debt, November 8th 2019

How Is Northern Dynasty Minerals’s Cash Burn Changing Over Time?

Northern Dynasty Minerals 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 38%, 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. So you might want to take a peek at how much the company is expected to grow in the next few years.

Can Northern Dynasty Minerals Raise More Cash Easily?

Given its cash burn trajectory, Northern Dynasty Minerals shareholders should already be thinking about how easy it might be for it to raise further cash in the future. 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 to fund growth. We can compare a company’s cash burn to its market capitalisation to get a sense for how many new shares a company would have to issue to fund one year’s operations.

Since it has a market capitalisation of CA$281m, Northern Dynasty Minerals’s CA$72m in cash burn equates to about 26% of its market value. That’s fairly notable cash burn, so if the company had to sell shares to cover the cost of another year’s operations, shareholders would suffer some costly dilution.

Is Northern Dynasty Minerals’s Cash Burn A Worry?

As you can probably tell by now, we’re rather concerned about Northern Dynasty Minerals’s cash burn. Take, for example, its cash runway, which suggests the company may have difficulty funding itself, in the future. While not as bad as its cash runway, its cash burn relative to its market cap 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. While it’s important to consider hard data like the metrics discussed above, many investors would also be interested to note that Northern Dynasty Minerals insiders have been trading shares in the company. Click here to find out if they have been buying or selling.

Of course Northern Dynasty Minerals 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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.