SLC Agrícola S.A. (BVMF:SLCE3) announced strong profits, but the stock was stagnant. Our analysis suggests that shareholders have noticed something concerning in the numbers.
Zooming In On SLC Agrícola's Earnings
As finance nerds would already know, the accrual ratio from cashflow is a key measure for assessing how well a company's free cash flow (FCF) matches its profit. 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. You could think of the accrual ratio from cashflow as the 'non-FCF profit ratio'.
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 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. To quote a 2014 paper by Lewellen and Resutek, "firms with higher accruals tend to be less profitable in the future".
For the year to December 2021, SLC Agrícola had an accrual ratio of 0.21. Therefore, we know that it's free cashflow was significantly lower than its statutory profit, which is hardly a good thing. In the last twelve months it actually had negative free cash flow, with an outflow of R$1.3m despite its profit of R$1.06b, mentioned above. We saw that FCF was R$573m a year ago though, so SLC Agrícola has at least been able to generate positive FCF in the past. The good news for shareholders is that SLC Agrícola's accrual ratio was much better last year, so this year's poor reading might simply be a case of a short term mismatch between profit and FCF. Shareholders should look for improved cashflow relative to profit in the current year, if that is indeed the case.
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.
Our Take On SLC Agrícola's Profit Performance
SLC Agrícola didn't convert much of its profit to free cash flow in the last year, which some investors may consider rather suboptimal. Therefore, it seems possible to us that SLC Agrícola's true underlying earnings power is actually less than its statutory profit. But the good news is that its EPS growth over the last three years has been very impressive. At the end of the day, it's essential to consider more than just the factors above, if you want to understand the company properly. 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. Our analysis shows 5 warning signs for SLC Agrícola (3 shouldn't be ignored!) and we strongly recommend you look at these before investing.
This note has only looked at a single factor that sheds light on the nature of SLC Agrícola's profit. But there are plenty of other ways to inform your opinion of a company. Some people consider a high return on equity to be a good sign of a quality business. 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. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.