Why Sixt's (ETR:SIX2) Earnings Are Better Than They Seem

By
Simply Wall St
Published
August 19, 2021
XTRA:SIX2
Source: Shutterstock

Sixt SE's (ETR:SIX2) solid earnings announcement recently didn't do much to the stock price. We did some digging, and we think that investors are missing some encouraging factors in the underlying numbers.

Check out our latest analysis for Sixt

earnings-and-revenue-history
XTRA:SIX2 Earnings and Revenue History August 20th 2021

Examining Cashflow Against Sixt'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. 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. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.

Over the twelve months to June 2021, Sixt recorded an accrual ratio of 0.23. Therefore, we know that it's free cashflow was significantly lower than its statutory profit, which is hardly a good thing. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of €638m, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of €68.5m. It's worth noting that Sixt generated positive FCF of €1.4b a year ago, so at least they've done it in the past. However, that's not all there is to consider. We can see that unusual items have impacted its statutory profit, and therefore the accrual ratio. The good news for shareholders is that Sixt'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. As a result, some shareholders may be looking for stronger cash conversion in the current year.

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.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

Sixt's profit suffered from unusual items, which reduced profit by €35m in the last twelve months. If this was a non-cash charge, it would have made the accrual ratio better, if cashflow had stayed strong, so it's not great to see in combination with an uninspiring accrual ratio. While deductions due to unusual items are disappointing in the first instance, there is a silver lining. When we analysed the vast majority of listed companies worldwide, we found that significant unusual items are often not repeated. And that's hardly a surprise given these line items are considered unusual. Assuming those unusual expenses don't come up again, we'd therefore expect Sixt to produce a higher profit next year, all else being equal.

Our Take On Sixt's Profit Performance

In conclusion, Sixt's accrual ratio suggests that its statutory earnings are not backed by cash flow, even though unusual items weighed on profit. Given the contrasting considerations, we don't have a strong view as to whether Sixt's profits are an apt reflection of its underlying potential for profit. 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. At Simply Wall St, we found 2 warning signs for Sixt and we think they deserve your attention.

Our examination of Sixt has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. 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. 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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