We didn't see Capricorn Metals Ltd's (ASX:CMM) stock surge when it reported robust earnings recently. We decided to have a deeper look, and we believe that investors might be worried about several concerning factors that we found.
Zooming In On Capricorn Metals' Earnings
In high finance, the key ratio used to measure how well a company converts reported profits into free cash flow (FCF) is the accrual ratio (from cashflow). To get the accrual ratio we first subtract FCF from profit for a period, and then divide that number by the average operating assets for the 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. While having an accrual ratio above zero is of little concern, we do think it's worth noting when a company has a relatively high accrual ratio. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.
Capricorn Metals has an accrual ratio of 0.65 for the year to December 2021. Statistically speaking, that's a real negative for future earnings. And indeed, during the period the company didn't produce any free cash flow whatsoever. Even though it reported a profit of AU$49.4m, a look at free cash flow indicates it actually burnt through AU$69m in the last year. We also note that Capricorn Metals' free cash flow was actually negative last year as well, so we could understand if shareholders were bothered by its outflow of AU$69m. Unfortunately for shareholders, the company has also been issuing new shares, diluting their share of future earnings.
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.
To understand the value of a company's earnings growth, it is imperative to consider any dilution of shareholders' interests. Capricorn Metals expanded the number of shares on issue by 8.0% over the last year. That means its earnings are split among a greater number of shares. To talk about net income, without noticing earnings per share, is to be distracted by the big numbers while ignoring the smaller numbers that talk to per share value. You can see a chart of Capricorn Metals' EPS by clicking here.
How Is Dilution Impacting Capricorn Metals' Earnings Per Share? (EPS)
Capricorn Metals was losing money three years ago. And even focusing only on the last twelve months, we don't have a meaningful growth rate because it made a loss a year ago, too. But mathematics aside, it is always good to see when a formerly unprofitable business come good (though we accept profit would have been higher if dilution had not been required). Therefore, the dilution is having a noteworthy influence on shareholder returns.
In the long term, if Capricorn Metals' earnings per share can increase, then the share price should too. However, if its profit increases while its earnings per share stay flat (or even fall) then shareholders might not see much benefit. For that reason, you could say that EPS is more important that net income in the long run, assuming the goal is to assess whether a company's share price might grow.
Our Take On Capricorn Metals' Profit Performance
In conclusion, Capricorn Metals has weak cashflow relative to earnings, which indicates lower quality earnings, and the dilution means that shareholders now own a smaller proportion of the company (assuming they maintained the same number of shares). For the reasons mentioned above, we think that a perfunctory glance at Capricorn Metals' statutory profits might make it look better than it really is on an underlying level. In light of this, if you'd like to do more analysis on the company, it's vital to be informed of the risks involved. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Capricorn Metals (1 makes us a bit uncomfortable) you should be familiar with.
In this article we've looked at a number of factors that can impair the utility of profit numbers, and we've come away cautious. 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. While it might take a little research on your behalf, you may find this free collection of companies boasting high return on equity, or this list of stocks that insiders are buying to be useful.
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Find out whether Capricorn Metals is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.View the Free Analysis
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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.