Pureprofile's (ASX:PPL) Robust Earnings Are Not All Good News For Shareholders

By
Simply Wall St
Published
September 01, 2021
ASX:PPL
Source: Shutterstock

Pureprofile Ltd's (ASX:PPL) stock rose after it released a robust earnings report. While the headline numbers were strong, we found some underlying problems once we started looking at what drove earnings.

View our latest analysis for Pureprofile

earnings-and-revenue-history
ASX:PPL Earnings and Revenue History September 1st 2021

A Closer Look At Pureprofile'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). In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company's average operating assets over that 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. 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.

Pureprofile has an accrual ratio of 0.72 for the year to June 2021. That means it didn't generate anywhere near enough free cash flow to match its profit. Statistically speaking, that's a real negative for future earnings. In fact, it had free cash flow of AU$295k in the last year, which was a lot less than its statutory profit of AU$2.81m. Notably, Pureprofile had negative free cash flow last year, so the AU$295k it produced this year was a welcome improvement. 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. One positive for Pureprofile shareholders is that it's accrual ratio was significantly better last year, providing reason to believe that it may return to stronger cash conversion in the future. As a result, some shareholders may be looking for stronger cash conversion in the current year.

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.

In order to understand the potential for per share returns, it is essential to consider how much a company is diluting shareholders. As it happens, Pureprofile issued 800% more new shares over the last year. 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. Check out Pureprofile's historical EPS growth by clicking on this link.

How Is Dilution Impacting Pureprofile's Earnings Per Share? (EPS)

Three years ago, Pureprofile lost money. 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. What we do know is that while it's great to see a profit over the last twelve months, that profit would have been better, on a per share basis, if the company hadn't needed to issue shares. And so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is having a rather significant impact on shareholders.

In the long term, if Pureprofile's earnings per share can increase, then the share price should too. But on the other hand, we'd be far less excited to learn profit (but not EPS) was improving. For the ordinary retail shareholder, EPS is a great measure to check your hypothetical "share" of the company's profit.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

The fact that the company had unusual items boosting profit by AU$7.7m, in the last year, probably goes some way to explain why its accrual ratio was so weak. While we like to see profit increases, we tend to be a little more cautious when unusual items have made a big contribution. 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, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. Pureprofile had a rather significant contribution from unusual items relative to its profit to June 2021. All else being equal, this would likely have the effect of making the statutory profit a poor guide to underlying earnings power.

Our Take On Pureprofile's Profit Performance

In conclusion, Pureprofile's weak accrual ratio suggested its statutory earnings have been inflated by the unusual items. The dilution means the results are weaker when viewed from a per-share perspective. On reflection, the above-mentioned factors give us the strong impression that Pureprofile'sunderlying 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 4 warning signs for Pureprofile you should be mindful of and 2 of them 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 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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