Investors appear disappointed with Inca Minerals Limited's (ASX:ICG) recent earnings, despite the decent statutory profit number. We did some digging and found some worrying factors that they might be paying attention to.
A Closer Look At Inca Minerals' Earnings
One key financial ratio used to measure how well a company converts its profit to free cash flow (FCF) is the accrual ratio. 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.
As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. 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. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.
Over the twelve months to December 2020, Inca Minerals recorded an accrual ratio of 0.65. 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. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of AU$3.4m, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of AU$1.43m. We also note that Inca Minerals' free cash flow was actually negative last year as well, so we could understand if shareholders were bothered by its outflow of AU$3.4m. However, that's not the end of the story. We can look at how unusual items in the profit and loss statement impacted its accrual ratio, as well as explore how dilution is impacting shareholders negatively.
Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of Inca Minerals.
In order to understand the potential for per share returns, it is essential to consider how much a company is diluting shareholders. In fact, Inca Minerals increased the number of shares on issue by 98% over the last twelve months by issuing new shares. As a result, its net income is now split between a greater number of shares. Per share metrics like EPS help us understand how much actual shareholders are benefitting from the company's profits, while the net income level gives us a better view of the company's absolute size. You can see a chart of Inca Minerals' EPS by clicking here.
A Look At The Impact Of Inca Minerals' Dilution on Its Earnings Per Share (EPS).
Inca Minerals was losing money three years ago. Zooming in to the last year, we still can't talk about growth rates coherently, since it made a loss last year. 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). So you can see that the dilution has had a fairly significant impact on shareholders.
In the long term, if Inca Minerals' 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 the ordinary retail shareholder, EPS is a great measure to check your hypothetical "share" of the company's profit.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
The fact that the company had unusual items boosting profit by AU$2.9m, in the last year, probably goes some way to explain why its accrual ratio was so weak. While it's always nice to have higher profit, a large contribution from unusual items sometimes dampens our enthusiasm. 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'. We can see that Inca Minerals' positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to December 2020. 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 Inca Minerals' Profit Performance
In conclusion, Inca Minerals' weak accrual ratio suggested its statutory earnings have been inflated by the unusual items. Meanwhile, the new shares issued mean that shareholders now own less of the company, unless they tipped in more cash themselves. On reflection, the above-mentioned factors give us the strong impression that Inca Minerals'underlying earnings power is not as good as it might seem, based on the statutory profit numbers. Keep in mind, when it comes to analysing a stock it's worth noting the risks involved. Case in point: We've spotted 5 warning signs for Inca Minerals you should be mindful of and 3 of these bad boys are potentially serious.
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. 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. 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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