Stock Analysis

We Think That There Are More Issues For Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd (SHSE:600126) Than Just Sluggish Earnings

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Hang Zhou Iron & Steel Co.,Ltd.'s (SHSE:600126) stock wasn't much affected by its recent lackluster earnings numbers. Our analysis suggests that they may be missing some concerning details underlying the profit numbers.

Check out our latest analysis for Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd

SHSE:600126 Earnings and Revenue History April 21st 2024

A Closer Look At Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd'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. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.

Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd has an accrual ratio of 0.29 for the year to December 2023. 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. Even though it reported a profit of CN¥182.2m, a look at free cash flow indicates it actually burnt through CN¥3.5b in the last year. We also note that Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd's free cash flow was actually negative last year as well, so we could understand if shareholders were bothered by its outflow of CN¥3.5b. Having said that, there is more to the story. We can see that unusual items have impacted its statutory profit, and therefore the accrual ratio.

Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd.

How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?

Given the accrual ratio, it's not overly surprising that Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd's profit was boosted by unusual items worth CN¥206m in the last twelve months. While we like to see profit increases, we tend to be a little more cautious when unusual items have made a big contribution. 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. Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd had a rather significant contribution from unusual items relative to its profit to December 2023. 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 Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd's Profit Performance

Summing up, Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd received a nice boost to profit from unusual items, but could not match its paper profit with free cash flow. For the reasons mentioned above, we think that a perfunctory glance at Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd's statutory profits might make it look better than it really is on an underlying level. So if you'd like to dive deeper into this stock, it's crucial to consider any risks it's facing. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd (of which 3 are significant!) you should know about.

Our examination of Hang Zhou Iron & SteelLtd 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. 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.