We Think Asbury Automotive Group’s (NYSE:ABG) Statutory Profit Might Understate Its Earnings Potential

Broadly speaking, profitable businesses are less risky than unprofitable ones. 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 Asbury Automotive Group’s (NYSE:ABG) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.

It’s good to see that over the last twelve months Asbury Automotive Group made a profit of US$157.7m on revenue of US$6.79b. As you can see in the chart below, its profit has declined over the last three years, even though its revenue has increased.

Check out our latest analysis for Asbury Automotive Group

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NYSE:ABG Earnings and Revenue History September 10th 2020

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. Today, we’ll discuss Asbury Automotive Group’s free cashflow relative to its earnings, and consider what that tells us about the company. 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.

A Closer Look At Asbury Automotive Group’s Earnings

One key financial ratio used to measure how well a company converts its profit to free cash flow (FCF) is the accrual ratio. In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company’s average operating assets over that period. This ratio tells us how much of a company’s profit is not backed by free cashflow.

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 June 2020, Asbury Automotive Group had an accrual ratio of -0.24. That indicates that its free cash flow quite significantly exceeded its statutory profit. To wit, it produced free cash flow of US$684m during the period, dwarfing its reported profit of US$157.7m. Asbury Automotive Group shareholders are no doubt pleased that free cash flow improved over the last twelve months.

Our Take On Asbury Automotive Group’s Profit Performance

Happily for shareholders, Asbury Automotive Group produced plenty of free cash flow to back up its statutory profit numbers. Because of this, we think Asbury Automotive Group’s underlying earnings potential is as good as, or possibly even better, than the statutory profit makes it seem! And on top of that, its earnings per share have grown at 6.6% per year over the last three years. 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. So if you’d like to dive deeper into this stock, it’s crucial to consider any risks it’s facing. You’d be interested to know, that we found 3 warning signs for Asbury Automotive Group and you’ll want to know about these bad boys.

This note has only looked at a single factor that sheds light on the nature of Asbury Automotive Group’s profit. 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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