Stock Analysis

Shareholders Shouldn’t Be Too Comfortable With DGL Group's (ASX:DGL) Strong Earnings

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ASX:DGL
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Despite posting strong earnings, DGL Group Limited's (ASX:DGL) stock didn't move much over the last week. We think that investors might be worried about the foundations the earnings are built on.

See our latest analysis for DGL Group

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ASX:DGL Earnings and Revenue History September 7th 2021

Examining Cashflow Against DGL Group's 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). 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.

As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. That is not intended to imply we should worry about a positive accrual ratio, but it's worth noting where the accrual ratio is rather high. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.

DGL Group has an accrual ratio of 0.40 for the year to June 2021. As a general rule, that bodes poorly for future profitability. And indeed, during the period the company didn't produce any free cash flow whatsoever. Even though it reported a profit of AU$47.2m, a look at free cash flow indicates it actually burnt through AU$307k in the last year. We also note that DGL Group's free cash flow was actually negative last year as well, so we could understand if shareholders were bothered by its outflow of AU$307k. Having said that, there is more to the story. We can see that unusual items have impacted its statutory profit, and therefore the accrual ratio.

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.

How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?

The fact that the company had unusual items boosting profit by AU$40m, in the last year, probably goes some way to explain why its accrual ratio was so weak. We can't deny that higher profits generally leave us optimistic, but we'd prefer it if the profit were to be sustainable. We ran the numbers on most publicly listed companies worldwide, and it's very common for unusual items to be once-off in nature. And that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. DGL Group had a rather significant contribution from unusual items relative to its profit to June 2021. As a result, we can surmise that the unusual items are making its statutory profit significantly stronger than it would otherwise be.

Our Take On DGL Group's Profit Performance

Summing up, DGL Group received a nice boost to profit from unusual items, but could not match its paper profit with free cash flow. On reflection, the above-mentioned factors give us the strong impression that DGL Group'sunderlying earnings power is not as good as it might seem, based on the statutory profit numbers. So if you'd like to dive deeper into this stock, it's crucial to consider any risks it's facing. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with DGL Group (including 2 which don't sit too well with us).

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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