We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. For example, although software-as-a-service business Salesforce.com lost money for years while it grew recurring revenue, if you held shares since 2005, you'd have done very well indeed. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?
So should Pharmaxis (ASX:PXS) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? For the purpose of this article, we'll define cash burn as the amount of cash the company is spending each year to fund its growth (also called its negative free cash flow). We'll start by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves in order to calculate its cash runway.
How Long Is Pharmaxis' Cash Runway?
A cash runway is defined as the length of time it would take a company to run out of money if it kept spending at its current rate of cash burn. As at June 2020, Pharmaxis had cash of AU$15m and no debt. Importantly, its cash burn was AU$11m over the trailing twelve months. So it had a cash runway of approximately 16 months from June 2020. Notably, however, the one analyst we see covering the stock thinks that Pharmaxis will break even (at a free cash flow level) before then. In that case, it may never reach the end of its cash runway. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.
How Well Is Pharmaxis Growing?
It was fairly positive to see that Pharmaxis reduced its cash burn by 36% during the last year. But the revenue dip of 7.9% in the same period was a bit concerning. Considering the factors above, the company doesn’t fare badly when it comes to assessing how it is changing over time. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. So you might want to take a peek at how much the company is expected to grow in the next few years.
How Hard Would It Be For Pharmaxis To Raise More Cash For Growth?
Pharmaxis seems to be in a fairly good position, in terms of cash burn, but we still think it's worthwhile considering how easily it could raise more money if it wanted to. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash and fund 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.
Pharmaxis has a market capitalisation of AU$37m and burnt through AU$11m last year, which is 30% of the company's market value. That's fairly notable cash burn, so if the company had to sell shares to cover the cost of another year's operations, shareholders would suffer some costly dilution.
So, Should We Worry About Pharmaxis' Cash Burn?
As you can probably tell by now, we're not too worried about Pharmaxis' cash burn. In particular, we think its cash burn reduction stands out as evidence that the company is well on top of its spending. Although its cash burn relative to its market cap does give us reason for pause, the other metrics we discussed in this article form a positive picture overall. There's no doubt that shareholders can take a lot of heart from the fact that at least one analyst is forecasting it will reach breakeven before too long. Looking at all the measures in this article, together, we're not worried about its rate of cash burn; the company seems well on top of its medium-term spending needs. On another note, we conducted an in-depth investigation of the company, and identified 3 warning signs for Pharmaxis (1 makes us a bit uncomfortable!) 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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