We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. For example, although Amazon.com made losses for many years after listing, if you had bought and held the shares since 1999, you would have made a fortune. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?
Given this risk, we thought we'd take a look at whether Norwest Energy (ASX:NWE) shareholders should be worried about its cash burn. For the purposes of this article, cash burn is the annual rate at which an unprofitable company spends cash to fund its growth; its negative free cash flow. The first step is to compare its cash burn with its cash reserves, to give us its 'cash runway'.
Does Norwest Energy Have A Long Cash Runway?
A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. As at June 2022, Norwest Energy had cash of AU$23m and no debt. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through AU$5.4m. Therefore, from June 2022 it had 4.2 years of cash runway. There's no doubt that this is a reassuringly long runway. Importantly, if we extrapolate recent cash burn trends, the cash runway would be noticeably longer. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.
How Is Norwest Energy's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Although Norwest Energy reported revenue of AU$229k last year, it didn't actually have any revenue from operations. That means we consider it a pre-revenue business, and we will focus our growth analysis on cash burn, for now. Its cash burn positively exploded in the last year, up 281%. That kind of sharp increase in spending may pay off, but is generally considered quite risky. 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 Norwest Energy Raise More Cash Easily?
While Norwest Energy does have a solid cash runway, its cash burn trajectory may have some shareholders thinking ahead to when the company may need to raise more cash. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. Many companies end up issuing new shares to fund future growth. We can compare a company's cash burn to its market capitalisation to get a sense for how many new shares a company would have to issue to fund one year's operations.
Norwest Energy has a market capitalisation of AU$302m and burnt through AU$5.4m last year, which is 1.8% of the company's market value. So it could almost certainly just borrow a little to fund another year's growth, or else easily raise the cash by issuing a few shares.
How Risky Is Norwest Energy's Cash Burn Situation?
As you can probably tell by now, we're not too worried about Norwest Energy's cash burn. In particular, we think its cash runway stands out as evidence that the company is well on top of its spending. While we must concede that its increasing cash burn is a bit worrying, the other factors mentioned in this article provide great comfort when it comes to the cash burn. After taking into account the various metrics mentioned in this report, we're pretty comfortable with how the company is spending its cash, as it seems on track to meet its needs over the medium term. On another note, Norwest Energy has 4 warning signs (and 2 which are a bit unpleasant) we think you should know about.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)
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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.