There's no doubt that money can be made by owning shares of unprofitable businesses. By way of example, Element 25 (ASX:E25) has seen its share price rise 102% over the last year, delighting many shareholders. Having said that, unprofitable companies are risky because they could potentially burn through all their cash and become distressed.
In light of its strong share price run, we think now is a good time to investigate how risky Element 25's cash burn is. 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. The first step is to compare its cash burn with its cash reserves, to give us its 'cash runway'.
When Might Element 25 Run Out Of Money?
You can calculate a company's cash runway by dividing the amount of cash it has by the rate at which it is spending that cash. When Element 25 last reported its balance sheet in June 2021, it had zero debt and cash worth AU$38m. In the last year, its cash burn was AU$28m. That means it had a cash runway of around 16 months as of June 2021. That's not too bad, but it's fair to say the end of the cash runway is in sight, unless cash burn reduces drastically. You can see how its cash balance has changed over time in the image below.
How Is Element 25's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Whilst it's great to see that Element 25 has already begun generating revenue from operations, last year it only produced AU$35k, so we don't think it is generating significant revenue, at this point. Therefore, for the purposes of this analysis we'll focus on how the cash burn is tracking. Remarkably, it actually increased its cash burn by 6,582% in the last year. With that kind of spending growth its cash runway will shorten quickly, as it simultaneously uses its cash while increasing the burn rate. Admittedly, we're a bit cautious of Element 25 due to its lack of significant operating revenues. So we'd generally prefer stocks from this list of stocks that have analysts forecasting growth.
Can Element 25 Raise More Cash Easily?
While Element 25 does have a solid cash runway, its cash burn trajectory may have some shareholders thinking ahead to when the company may need to raise more cash. 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.
Element 25's cash burn of AU$28m is about 11% of its AU$251m market capitalisation. Given that situation, it's fair to say the company wouldn't have much trouble raising more cash for growth, but shareholders would be somewhat diluted.
Is Element 25's Cash Burn A Worry?
On this analysis of Element 25's cash burn, we think its cash burn relative to its market cap was reassuring, while its increasing cash burn has us a bit worried. Even though we don't think it has a problem with its cash burn, the analysis we've done in this article does suggest that shareholders should give some careful thought to the potential cost of raising more money in the future. On another note, we conducted an in-depth investigation of the company, and identified 5 warning signs for Element 25 (3 are a bit unpleasant!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies insiders are buying, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)
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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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