DigitalX's (ASX:DCC) Earnings Quality Is Low

By
Simply Wall St
Published
September 07, 2021
ASX:DCC
Source: Shutterstock

DigitalX Limited's (ASX:DCC) weak earnings were disregarded by the market. Despite the market responding positively, we think that there are several concerning factors that investors should be aware of.

See our latest analysis for DigitalX

earnings-and-revenue-history
ASX:DCC Earnings and Revenue History September 7th 2021

Examining Cashflow Against DigitalX's 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. The ratio shows us how much a company's profit exceeds its FCF.

That means a negative accrual ratio is a good thing, because it shows that the company is bringing in more free cash flow than its profit would suggest. While having an accrual ratio above zero is of little concern, we do think it's worth noting when a company has a relatively high accrual ratio. That's because some academic studies have suggested that high accruals ratios tend to lead to lower profit or less profit growth.

DigitalX has an accrual ratio of 0.35 for the year to June 2021. We can therefore deduce that its free cash flow fell well short of covering its statutory profit, suggesting we might want to think twice before putting a lot of weight on the latter. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of AU$2.1m, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of AU$6.76m. We also note that DigitalX's free cash flow was actually negative last year as well, so we could understand if shareholders were bothered by its outflow of AU$2.1m. 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 DigitalX 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.

Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of DigitalX.

In order to understand the potential for per share returns, it is essential to consider how much a company is diluting shareholders. DigitalX expanded the number of shares on issue by 21% over the last year. That means its earnings are split among a greater number of shares. To celebrate net income while ignoring dilution is like rejoicing because you have a single slice of a larger pizza, but ignoring the fact that the pizza is now cut into many more slices. You can see a chart of DigitalX's EPS by clicking here.

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

As it happens, we don't know how much the company made or lost three years ago, because we don't have the data. Zooming in to the last year, we still can't talk about growth rates coherently, since it made a loss last year. 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. So you can see that the dilution has had a bit of an impact on shareholders.

In the long term, if DigitalX'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.

How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?

The fact that the company had unusual items boosting profit by AU$434k, 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, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. If DigitalX doesn't see that contribution repeat, then all else being equal we'd expect its profit to drop over the current year.

Our Take On DigitalX's Profit Performance

DigitalX didn't back up its earnings with free cashflow, but this isn't too surprising given profits were inflated by unusual items. Meanwhile, the new shares issued mean that shareholders now own less of the company, unless they tipped in more cash themselves. For all the reasons mentioned above, we think that, at a glance, DigitalX's statutory profits could be considered to be low quality, because they are likely to give investors an overly positive impression of the company. If you'd like to know more about DigitalX as a business, it's important to be aware of any risks it's facing. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for DigitalX (of which 1 is significant!) you should know about.

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. So you may wish to see this free collection of companies boasting high return on equity, or this list of stocks that insiders are buying.

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