Stock Analysis

The Strong Earnings Posted By Australian Clinical Labs (ASX:ACL) Are A Good Indication Of The Strength Of The Business

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ASX:ACL
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Australian Clinical Labs Limited (ASX:ACL) just reported healthy earnings but the stock price didn't move much. Our analysis suggests that investors might be missing some promising details.

Check out our latest analysis for Australian Clinical Labs

earnings-and-revenue-history
ASX:ACL Earnings and Revenue History September 1st 2021

A Closer Look At Australian Clinical Labs' Earnings

One key financial ratio used to measure how well a company converts its profit to free cash flow (FCF) is the accrual ratio. The accrual ratio subtracts the FCF from the profit for a given period, and divides the result by the average operating assets of the company over that time. 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. While it's not a problem to have a positive accrual ratio, indicating a certain level of non-cash profits, a high accrual ratio is arguably a bad thing, because it indicates paper profits are not matched by cash flow. To quote a 2014 paper by Lewellen and Resutek, "firms with higher accruals tend to be less profitable in the future".

For the year to June 2021, Australian Clinical Labs had an accrual ratio of -0.70. 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$144m in the last year, which was a lot more than its statutory profit of AU$60.4m. Australian Clinical Labs' free cash flow improved over the last year, which is generally good to see.

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.

Our Take On Australian Clinical Labs' Profit Performance

As we discussed above, Australian Clinical Labs' 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 Australian Clinical Labs' statutory profit actually understates its earnings potential! And on top of that, its earnings per share increased by 40% in the 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. So if you'd like to dive deeper into this stock, it's crucial to consider any risks it's facing. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Australian Clinical Labs (1 doesn't sit too well with us) you should be familiar with.

Today we've zoomed in on a single data point to better understand the nature of Australian Clinical Labs' 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. 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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