Here’s Why We’re A Bit Worried About PetroTal’s (CVE:TAL) Cash Burn Situation

Even when a business is losing money, it’s possible for shareholders to make money if they buy a good business at the right price. 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. But while the successes are well known, investors should not ignore the very many unprofitable companies that simply burn through all their cash and collapse.

So, the natural question for PetroTal (CVE:TAL) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of cash burn. In this article, we define cash burn as its annual (negative) free cash flow, which is the amount of money a company spends each year to fund its growth. We’ll start by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves in order to calculate its cash runway.

See our latest analysis for PetroTal

When Might PetroTal Run Out Of Money?

A company’s cash runway is the amount of time it would take to burn through its cash reserves at its current cash burn rate. As at September 2019, PetroTal had cash of US$21m and no debt. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$51m. Therefore, from September 2019 it had roughly 5 months of cash runway. That’s a very short cash runway which indicates an imminent need to douse the cash burn or find more funding. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

TSXV:TAL Historical Debt April 29th 2020
TSXV:TAL Historical Debt April 29th 2020

How Well Is PetroTal Growing?

Notably, PetroTal actually ramped up its cash burn very hard and fast in the last year, by 120%, signifying heavy investment in the business. Given that operating revenue was up a stupendous 784% over the last year, there’s a good chance the investment will pay off. On balance, we’d say the company is improving over time. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.

Can PetroTal Raise More Cash Easily?

Given the trajectory of PetroTal’s cash burn, many investors will already be thinking about how it might raise more cash in the future. Generally speaking, a listed business can raise new cash through issuing shares or taking on debt. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash to fund growth. By looking at a company’s cash burn relative to its market capitalisation, we gain insight on how much shareholders would be diluted if the company needed to raise enough cash to cover another year’s cash burn.

Since it has a market capitalisation of US$94m, PetroTal’s US$51m in cash burn equates to about 55% of its market value. That’s high expenditure relative to the value of the entire company, so if it does have to issue shares to fund more growth, that could end up really hurting shareholders returns (through significant dilution).

Is PetroTal’s Cash Burn A Worry?

Even though its cash runway makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought PetroTal’s revenue growth was relatively promising. After looking at that range of measures, we think shareholders should be extremely attentive to how the company is using its cash, as the cash burn makes us uncomfortable. On another note, we conducted an in-depth investigation of the company, and identified 4 warning signs for PetroTal (1 is concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies insiders are buying, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)

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