We Don’t Think AGL Energy's (ASX:AGL) Earnings Should Make Shareholders Too Comfortable

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 16, 2022
ASX:AGL
Source: Shutterstock

AGL Energy Limited (ASX:AGL) posted some decent earnings, but shareholders didn't react strongly. Our analysis suggests they may be concerned about some underlying details.

See our latest analysis for AGL Energy

earnings-and-revenue-history
ASX:AGL Earnings and Revenue History February 16th 2022

One essential aspect of assessing earnings quality is to look at how much a company is diluting shareholders. In fact, AGL Energy increased the number of shares on issue by 5.7% over the last twelve months by issuing new shares. As a result, its net income is now split between a greater number of shares. To talk about net income, without noticing earnings per share, is to be distracted by the big numbers while ignoring the smaller numbers that talk to per share value. You can see a chart of AGL Energy's EPS by clicking here.

How Is Dilution Impacting AGL Energy'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. 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. Therefore, the dilution is having a noteworthy influence on shareholder returns.

In the long term, if AGL Energy'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.

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.

How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?

Alongside that dilution, it's also important to note that AGL Energy's profit was boosted by unusual items worth AU$2.1b in the last twelve months. While it's always nice to have higher profit, a large contribution from unusual items sometimes dampens our enthusiasm. When we crunched the numbers on thousands of publicly listed companies, we found that a boost from unusual items in a given year is often not repeated the next year. And, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. We can see that AGL Energy's positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to December 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 AGL Energy's Profit Performance

In its last report AGL Energy benefitted from unusual items which boosted its profit, which could make the profit seem better than it really is on a sustainable basis. On top of that, the dilution means that its earnings per share performance is worse than its profit performance. Considering all this we'd argue AGL Energy's profits probably give an overly generous impression of its sustainable level of profitability. In light of this, if you'd like to do more analysis on the company, it's vital to be informed of the risks involved. While conducting our analysis, we found that AGL Energy has 5 warning signs and it would be unwise to ignore them.

Our examination of AGL Energy has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. And, on that basis, we are somewhat skeptical. 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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