Even though Leaf Mobile Inc (TSE:LEAF) posted strong earnings recently, the stock hasn't reacted in a large way. We decided to have a deeper look, and we believe that investors might be worried about several concerning factors that we found.
A Closer Look At Leaf Mobile's Earnings
Many investors haven't heard of the accrual ratio from cashflow, but it is actually a useful measure of how well a company's profit is backed up by free cash flow (FCF) during a given period. The accrual ratio subtracts the FCF from the profit for a given period, and divides the result by the average operating assets of the company over that time. 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 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. To quote a 2014 paper by Lewellen and Resutek, "firms with higher accruals tend to be less profitable in the future".
Leaf Mobile has an accrual ratio of 0.81 for the year to March 2021. Ergo, its free cash flow is significantly weaker than its profit. As a general rule, that bodes poorly for future profitability. To wit, it produced free cash flow of CA$8.1m during the period, falling well short of its reported profit of CA$18.0m. We note, however, that Leaf Mobile grew its free cash flow over the last year. However, that's not all there is to consider. The accrual ratio is reflecting the impact of unusual items on statutory profit, at least in part.
Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of Leaf Mobile.
The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit
Given the accrual ratio, it's not overly surprising that Leaf Mobile's profit was boosted by unusual items worth CA$13m 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 that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. We can see that Leaf Mobile's positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to March 2021. As a result, we can surmise that the unusual items are making its statutory profit significantly stronger than it would otherwise be.
Our Take On Leaf Mobile's Profit Performance
Summing up, Leaf Mobile received a nice boost to profit from unusual items, but could not match its paper profit with free cash flow. For all the reasons mentioned above, we think that, at a glance, Leaf Mobile's statutory profits could be considered to be low quality, because they are likely to give investors an overly positive impression of the company. So while earnings quality is important, it's equally important to consider the risks facing Leaf Mobile at this point in time. When we did our research, we found 2 warning signs for Leaf Mobile (1 is a bit unpleasant!) that we believe deserve your full attention.
Our examination of Leaf Mobile 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 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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