Easy Come, Easy Go: How Epigenomics (ETR:ECX) Shareholders Got Unlucky And Saw 81% Of Their Cash Evaporate

This week we saw the Epigenomics AG (ETR:ECX) share price climb by 11%. But spare a thought for the long term holders, who have held the stock as it bled value over the last five years. Like a ship taking on water, the share price has sunk 81% in that time. The recent bounce might mean the long decline is over, but we are not confident. The real question is whether the business can leave its past behind and improve itself over the years ahead.

While a drop like that is definitely a body blow, money isn’t as important as health and happiness.

View our latest analysis for Epigenomics

Epigenomics recorded just €1,065,000 in revenue over the last twelve months, which isn’t really enough for us to consider it to have a proven product. You have to wonder why venture capitalists aren’t funding it. So it seems that the investors focused more on what could be, than paying attention to the current revenues (or lack thereof). For example, they may be hoping that Epigenomics comes up with a great new product, before it runs out of money.

Companies that lack both meaningful revenue and profits are usually considered high risk. We can see that they needed to raise more capital, and took that step recently despite the fact that it would have been dilutive to current holders. While some such companies do very well over the long term, others become hyped up by promoters before eventually falling back down to earth, and going bankrupt (or being recapitalized). It certainly is a dangerous place to invest, as Epigenomics investors might realise.

Epigenomics only just had cash in excess of all liabilities when it last reported. So it is a good thing that the company has looked to remedy the situation by raising more capital recently. The cash situation might not explain why the share price is down 28% per year, over 5 years. You can see in the image below, how Epigenomics’s cash levels have changed over time (click to see the values).

XTRA:ECX Historical Debt March 27th 2020
XTRA:ECX Historical Debt March 27th 2020

In reality it’s hard to have much certainty when valuing a business that has neither revenue or profit. Given that situation, would you be concerned if it turned out insiders were relentlessly selling stock? I’d like that just about as much as I like to drink milk and fruit juice mixed together. You can click here to see if there are insiders selling.

What about the Total Shareholder Return (TSR)?

Investors should note that there’s a difference between Epigenomics’s total shareholder return (TSR) and its share price change, which we’ve covered above. Arguably the TSR is a more complete return calculation because it accounts for the value of dividends (as if they were reinvested), along with the hypothetical value of any discounted capital that have been offered to shareholders. We note that Epigenomics’s TSR, at -79% is higher than its share price return of -81%. When you consider it hasn’t been paying a dividend, this data suggests shareholders have benefitted from a spin-off, or had the opportunity to acquire attractively priced shares in a discounted capital raising.

A Different Perspective

We regret to report that Epigenomics shareholders are down 37% for the year. Unfortunately, that’s worse than the broader market decline of 11%. Having said that, it’s inevitable that some stocks will be oversold in a falling market. The key is to keep your eyes on the fundamental developments. Unfortunately, last year’s performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 27% over the last half decade. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. It’s always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Epigenomics better, we need to consider many other factors. For example, we’ve discovered 6 warning signs for Epigenomics (1 can’t be ignored!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

If you would prefer to check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss this free list of companies that have proven they can grow earnings.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on DE exchanges.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

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