Robust Earnings May Not Tell The Whole Story For DDH1 (ASX:DDH)

By
Simply Wall St
Published
September 02, 2021
ASX:DDH
Source: Shutterstock

DDH1 Limited (ASX:DDH) announced strong profits, but the stock was stagnant. Our analysis suggests that shareholders have noticed something concerning in the numbers.

See our latest analysis for DDH1

earnings-and-revenue-history
ASX:DDH Earnings and Revenue History September 2nd 2021

A Closer Look At DDH1's Earnings

As finance nerds would already know, the accrual ratio from cashflow is a key measure for assessing how well a company's free cash flow (FCF) matches its profit. 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. You could think of the accrual ratio from cashflow as the 'non-FCF profit ratio'.

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. That's because some academic studies have suggested that high accruals ratios tend to lead to lower profit or less profit growth.

For the year to June 2021, DDH1 had an accrual ratio of 0.25. Unfortunately, that means its free cash flow fell significantly short of its reported profits. Indeed, in the last twelve months it reported free cash flow of AU$9.3m, which is significantly less than its profit of AU$57.2m. DDH1 shareholders will no doubt be hoping that its free cash flow bounces back next year, since it was down over the last twelve months. Importantly, we note an unusual tax situation, which we discuss below, has impacted the accruals ratio. This would certainly have contributed to the weak cash conversion. The good news for shareholders is that DDH1's accrual ratio was much better last year, so this year's poor reading might simply be a case of a short term mismatch between profit and FCF. Shareholders should look for improved cashflow relative to profit in the current year, if that is indeed the case.

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.

An Unusual Tax Situation

Moving on from the accrual ratio, we note that DDH1 profited from a tax benefit which contributed AU$18m to profit. This is of course a bit out of the ordinary, given it is more common for companies to be paying tax than receiving tax benefits! The receipt of a tax benefit is obviously a good thing, on its own. However, our data indicates that tax benefits can temporarily boost statutory profit in the year it is booked, but subsequently profit may fall back. Assuming the tax benefit is not repeated every year, we could see its profitability drop noticeably, all else being equal. So while we think it's great to receive a tax benefit, it does tend to imply an increased risk that the statutory profit overstates the sustainable earnings power of the business.

Our Take On DDH1's Profit Performance

This year, DDH1 couldn't match its profit with cashflow. If the tax benefit is not repeated, then profit would drop next year, all else being equal. Considering all this we'd argue DDH1's profits probably give an overly generous impression of its sustainable level of profitability. With this in mind, we wouldn't consider investing in a stock unless we had a thorough understanding of the risks. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 2 warning signs with DDH1, and understanding these bad boys should be part of your investment process.

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 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. 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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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.
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Simply Wall St is focused on providing unbiased, high-quality research coverage on every listed company in the world. Our research team consists of data scientists and multiple equity analysts with over two decades worth of financial markets experience between them.