It might be old fashioned, but we really like to invest in companies that make a profit, each and every year. Having said that, sometimes statutory profit levels are not a good guide to ongoing profitability, because some short term one-off factor has impacted profit levels. This article will consider whether EMCOR Group’s (NYSE:EME) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.
While EMCOR Group was able to generate revenue of US$9.01b in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of US$160.7m was more important. The chart below shows how it has grown revenue over the last three years, but that profit has declined.
Not all profits are equal, and we can learn more about the nature of a company’s past profitability by diving deeper into the financial statements. Therefore, we think it’s worth taking a closer look at EMCOR Group’s cashflow, as well as examining the impact that unusual items have had on its reported profit. 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 EMCOR Group’s Earnings
As finance nerds would already know, the accrual ratio from cashflow is a key measure for assessing how well a company’s free cash flow (FCF) matches its profit. In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company’s average operating assets over that period. The ratio shows us how much a company’s profit exceeds its FCF.
As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. 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. That’s because some academic studies have suggested that high accruals ratios tend to lead to lower profit or less profit growth.
For the year to June 2020, EMCOR Group had an accrual ratio of -0.25. That indicates that its free cash flow quite significantly exceeded its statutory profit. In fact, it had free cash flow of US$623m in the last year, which was a lot more than its statutory profit of US$160.7m. EMCOR Group shareholders are no doubt pleased that free cash flow improved over the last twelve months. However, that’s not all there is to consider. The accrual ratio is reflecting the impact of unusual items on statutory profit, at least in part.
The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit
EMCOR Group’s profit was reduced by unusual items worth US$237.5m in the last twelve months, and this helped it produce high cash conversion, as reflected by its unusual items. This is what you’d expect to see where a company has a non-cash charge reducing paper profits. It’s never great to see unusual items costing the company profits, but on the upside, things might improve sooner rather than later. When we analysed the vast majority of listed companies worldwide, we found that significant unusual items are often not repeated. And that’s hardly a surprise given these line items are considered unusual. EMCOR Group took a rather significant hit from unusual items in the year to June 2020. All else being equal, this would likely have the effect of making the statutory profit look worse than its underlying earnings power.
Our Take On EMCOR Group’s Profit Performance
Considering both EMCOR Group’s accrual ratio and its unusual items, we think its statutory earnings are unlikely to exaggerate the company’s underlying earnings power. After considering all this, we reckon EMCOR Group’s statutory profit probably understates its earnings potential! With this in mind, we wouldn’t consider investing in a stock unless we had a thorough understanding of the risks. Case in point: We’ve spotted 3 warning signs for EMCOR Group you should be aware of.
After our examination into the nature of EMCOR Group’s profit, we’ve come away optimistic for the company. 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. 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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