Should You Use ARC Document Solutions’s (NYSE:ARC) Statutory Earnings To Analyse It?

It might be old fashioned, but we really like to invest in companies that make a profit, each and every year. That said, the current statutory profit is not always a good guide to a company’s underlying profitability. This article will consider whether ARC Document Solutions‘s (NYSE:ARC) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.

It’s good to see that over the last twelve months ARC Document Solutions made a profit of US$3.80m on revenue of US$388.5m. Even though revenue is down over the last three years, you can see in the chart below that the company has moved from loss-making to profitable.

See our latest analysis for ARC Document Solutions

NYSE:ARC Income Statement, December 17th 2019
NYSE:ARC Income Statement, December 17th 2019

Importantly, statutory profits are not always the best tool for understanding a company’s true earnings power, so it’s well worth examining profits in a little more detail. Today, we’ll discuss ARC Document Solutions’s free cashflow relative to its earnings, and consider what that tells us about the company. Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of ARC Document Solutions.

A Closer Look At ARC Document Solutions’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. The ratio shows us how much a company’s profit exceeds its FCF.

Therefore, it’s actually considered a good thing when a company has a negative accrual ratio, but a bad thing if its accrual ratio is positive. That is not intended to imply we should worry about a positive accrual ratio, but it’s worth noting where the accrual ratio is rather high. 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 September 2019, ARC Document Solutions had an accrual ratio of -0.17. Therefore, its statutory earnings were very significantly less than its free cashflow. In fact, it had free cash flow of US$42m in the last year, which was a lot more than its statutory profit of US$3.80m. ARC Document Solutions’s free cash flow improved over the last year, which is generally good to see.

Our Take On ARC Document Solutions’s Profit Performance

As we discussed above, ARC Document Solutions’s accrual ratio indicates strong conversion of profit to free cash flow, which is a positive for the company. Based on this observation, we consider it possible that ARC Document Solutions’s statutory profit actually understates its earnings potential! And it’s also positive that the company showed enough improvement to book a profit this year, after losing money last year. Of course, we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to analysing its earnings; one could also consider margins, forecast growth, and return on investment, among other factors. While it’s very important to consider the profit and loss statement, you can also learn a lot about a company by looking at its balance sheet. If you want to,you can see our take on ARC Document Solutions’s balance sheet by clicking here.

Today we’ve zoomed in on a single data point to better understand the nature of ARC Document Solutions’s profit. But there is always more to discover if you are capable of focussing your mind on minutiae. 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.

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.