Are Finning International's (TSE:FTT) Statutory Earnings A Good Guide To Its Underlying Profitability?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 26, 2020
TSX:FTT

Broadly speaking, profitable businesses are less risky than unprofitable ones. That said, the current statutory profit is not always a good guide to a company's underlying profitability. This article will consider whether Finning International's (TSE:FTT) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.

It's good to see that over the last twelve months Finning International made a profit of CA$210.0m on revenue of CA$6.44b. Happily, it has grown both its profit and revenue over the last three years (but not in the last year), as you can see in the chart below.

Check out our latest analysis for Finning International

earnings-and-revenue-history
TSX:FTT Earnings and Revenue History November 26th 2020

Of course, it is only sensible to look beyond the statutory profits and question how well those numbers represent the sustainable earnings power of the business. As a result, today we're going to take a closer look at Finning International's cashflow, and unusual items, with a view to understanding what these might tell us about its statutory 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.

Examining Cashflow Against Finning International'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.

As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. 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. That's because some academic studies have suggested that high accruals ratios tend to lead to lower profit or less profit growth.

Finning International has an accrual ratio of -0.21 for the year to September 2020. Therefore, its statutory earnings were very significantly less than its free cashflow. Indeed, in the last twelve months it reported free cash flow of CA$948m, well over the CA$210.0m it reported in profit. Finning International's free cash flow improved over the last year, which is generally good to see. Having said that, there is more to the story. The accrual ratio is reflecting the impact of unusual items on statutory profit, at least in part.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

Surprisingly, given Finning International's accrual ratio implied strong cash conversion, its paper profit was actually boosted by CA$47m in unusual items. We can't deny that higher profits generally leave us optimistic, but we'd prefer it if the profit were to be sustainable. 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. If Finning International 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 Finning International's Profit Performance

Finning International's profits got a boost from unusual items, which indicates they might not be sustained and yet its accrual ratio still indicated solid cash conversion, which is promising. Based on these factors, we think that Finning International's profits are a reasonably conservative guide to its underlying profitability. So if you'd like to dive deeper into this stock, it's crucial to consider any risks it's facing. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 2 warning signs with Finning International, and understanding these should be part of your investment process.

Our examination of Finning International has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. But there is always more to discover if you are capable of focussing your mind on minutiae. 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. 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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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
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