We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. 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 history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?
So, the natural question for Carnarvon Petroleum (ASX:CVN) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of cash burn. For the purpose of this article, we'll define cash burn as the amount of cash the company is spending each year to fund its growth (also called its negative free cash flow). First, we'll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.
When Might Carnarvon Petroleum Run Out Of Money?
A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. In June 2020, Carnarvon Petroleum had AU$114m in cash, and was debt-free. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through AU$42m. That means it had a cash runway of about 2.7 years as of June 2020. That's decent, giving the company a couple years to develop its business. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.
How Is Carnarvon Petroleum's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Because Carnarvon Petroleum isn't currently generating revenue, we consider it an early-stage business. So while we can't look to sales to understand growth, we can look at how the cash burn is changing to understand how expenditure is trending over time. As it happens, the company's cash burn reduced by 2.1% over the last year, which suggests that management are maintaining a fairly steady rate of business development, albeit with a slight decrease in spending. Clearly, however, the crucial factor is whether the company will grow its business going forward. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.
Can Carnarvon Petroleum Raise More Cash Easily?
While Carnarvon Petroleum is showing a solid reduction in its cash burn, it's still worth considering how easily it could raise more cash, even just to fuel faster growth. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. Commonly, a business will sell new shares in itself to raise cash and drive growth. By comparing a company's annual cash burn to its total market capitalisation, we can estimate roughly how many shares it would have to issue in order to run the company for another year (at the same burn rate).
Carnarvon Petroleum's cash burn of AU$42m is about 8.2% of its AU$509m market capitalisation. That's a low proportion, so we figure the company would be able to raise more cash to fund growth, with a little dilution, or even to simply borrow some money.
So, Should We Worry About Carnarvon Petroleum's Cash Burn?
As you can probably tell by now, we're not too worried about Carnarvon Petroleum's cash burn. For example, we think its cash runway suggests that the company is on a good path. On this analysis its cash burn reduction was its weakest feature, but we are not concerned about it. Looking at all the measures in this article, together, we're not worried about its rate of cash burn; the company seems well on top of its medium-term spending needs. Readers need to have a sound understanding of business risks before investing in a stock, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Carnarvon Petroleum that potential shareholders should take into account before putting money into a stock.
Of course Carnarvon Petroleum may not be the best stock to buy. 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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