There's no doubt that money can be made by owning shares of unprofitable businesses. 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 should Universal Biosensors (ASX:UBI) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? In this article, we define cash burn as its annual (negative) free cash flow, which is the amount of money a company spends each year to fund its growth. Let's start with an examination of the business' cash, relative to its cash burn.
When Might Universal Biosensors Run Out Of Money?
A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. Universal Biosensors has such a small amount of debt that we'll set it aside, and focus on the AU$15m in cash it held at December 2021. Importantly, its cash burn was AU$11m over the trailing twelve months. Therefore, from December 2021 it had roughly 17 months of cash runway. Notably, analysts forecast that Universal Biosensors will break even (at a free cash flow level) in about 3 years. That means unless the company reduces its cash burn quickly, it may well look to raise more cash. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.
How Well Is Universal Biosensors Growing?
At first glance it's a bit worrying to see that Universal Biosensors actually boosted its cash burn by 22%, year on year. But looking on the bright side, its revenue gained by 80%, lending some credence to the growth narrative. The company needs to keep up that growth, if it is to really please shareholders. It seems to be growing nicely. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. So you might want to take a peek at how much the company is expected to grow in the next few years.
How Hard Would It Be For Universal Biosensors To Raise More Cash For Growth?
Universal Biosensors seems to be in a fairly good position, in terms of cash burn, but we still think it's worthwhile considering how easily it could raise more money if it wanted to. 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.
Universal Biosensors has a market capitalisation of AU$115m and burnt through AU$11m last year, which is 9.2% of the company's market value. 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.
How Risky Is Universal Biosensors' Cash Burn Situation?
Even though its increasing cash burn makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Universal Biosensors' revenue growth was relatively promising. One real positive is that analysts are forecasting that the company will reach breakeven. Considering all the factors discussed in this article, we're not overly concerned about the company's cash burn, although we do think shareholders should keep an eye on how it develops. Readers need to have a sound understanding of business risks before investing in a stock, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Universal Biosensors that potential shareholders should take into account before putting money into a stock.
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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.