Stock Analysis

Here's Why We Think Keller Group's (LON:KLR) Statutory Earnings Might Be Conservative

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LSE:KLR
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It might be old fashioned, but we really like to invest in companies that make a profit, each and every year. Having said that, sometimes statutory profit levels are not a good guide to ongoing profitability, because some short term one-off factor has impacted profit levels. This article will consider whether Keller Group's (LON:KLR) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.

While Keller Group was able to generate revenue of UK£2.25b in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of UK£27.9m was more important.

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LSE:KLR Earnings and Revenue History December 7th 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. So today we'll look at what Keller Group's cashflow and unusual items tell us about the quality of its earnings. 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 Keller Group'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). 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. You could think of the accrual ratio from cashflow as the 'non-FCF profit ratio'.

Therefore, it's actually considered a good thing when a company has a negative accrual ratio, but a bad thing if its accrual ratio is positive. 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.

Keller Group has an accrual ratio of -0.26 for the year to June 2020. That implies it has very good cash conversion, and that its earnings in the last year actually significantly understate its free cash flow. In fact, it had free cash flow of UK£198m in the last year, which was a lot more than its statutory profit of UK£27.9m. Keller Group shareholders are no doubt pleased that free cash flow improved over the last twelve months. 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

Keller Group's profit was reduced by unusual items worth UK£31m in the last twelve months, and this helped it produce high cash conversion, as reflected by its unusual items. In a scenario where those unusual items included non-cash charges, we'd expect to see a strong accrual ratio, which is exactly what has happened in this case. It's never great to see unusual items costing the company profits, but on the upside, things might improve sooner rather than later. We looked at thousands of listed companies and found that unusual items are very often one-off in nature. And, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. If Keller Group doesn't see those unusual expenses repeat, then all else being equal we'd expect its profit to increase over the coming year.

Our Take On Keller Group's Profit Performance

Considering both Keller Group's accrual ratio and its unusual items, we think its statutory earnings are unlikely to exaggerate the company's underlying earnings power. Based on these factors, we think Keller Group's underlying earnings potential is as good as, or probably even better, than the statutory profit makes it seem! So if you'd like to dive deeper into this stock, it's crucial to consider any risks it's facing. While conducting our analysis, we found that Keller Group has 3 warning signs and it would be unwise to ignore these.

After our examination into the nature of Keller Group's profit, we've come away optimistic for the company. 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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