MaxiTRANS Industries Limited's (ASX:MXI) robust earnings report didn't manage to move the market for its stock. Our analysis suggests that shareholders have noticed something concerning in the numbers.
A Closer Look At MaxiTRANS Industries' 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. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.
Over the twelve months to June 2021, MaxiTRANS Industries recorded an accrual ratio of -0.23. That implies it has very good cash conversion, and that its earnings in the last year actually significantly understate its free cash flow. In fact, it had free cash flow of AU$25m in the last year, which was a lot more than its statutory profit of AU$5.69m. MaxiTRANS Industries' free cash flow actually declined over the last year, which is disappointing, like non-biodegradable balloons. Having said that, there is more to the story. We can see that unusual items have impacted its statutory profit, and therefore the accrual ratio.
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.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
While the accrual ratio might bode well, we also note that MaxiTRANS Industries' profit was boosted by unusual items worth AU$7.2m in the last twelve months. While it's always nice to have higher profit, a large contribution from unusual items sometimes dampens our enthusiasm. We ran the numbers on most publicly listed companies worldwide, and it's very common for unusual items to be once-off in nature. And that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. MaxiTRANS Industries had a rather significant contribution from unusual items relative to its profit to June 2021. All else being equal, this would likely have the effect of making the statutory profit a poor guide to underlying earnings power.
Our Take On MaxiTRANS Industries' Profit Performance
MaxiTRANS Industries' profits got a boost from unusual items, which indicates they might not be sustained and yet its accrual ratio still indicated solid cash conversion, which is promising. Based on these factors, it's hard to tell if MaxiTRANS Industries' profits are a reasonable reflection of its underlying profitability. So if you'd like to dive deeper into this stock, it's crucial to consider any risks it's facing. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 3 warning signs with MaxiTRANS Industries, and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
In this article we've looked at a number of factors that can impair the utility of profit numbers, as a guide to a business. 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.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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