Stock Analysis

Does Colefax Group's (LON:CFX) Statutory Profit Adequately Reflect Its Underlying Profit?

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AIM:CFX
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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. Today we'll focus on whether this year's statutory profits are a good guide to understanding Colefax Group (LON:CFX).

While Colefax Group was able to generate revenue of UK£78.4m in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of UK£1.92m was more important. While its revenue has declined over the last few years, profit has held up, and is largely flat, as shown below.

See our latest analysis for Colefax Group

earnings-and-revenue-history
AIM:CFX Earnings and Revenue History January 14th 2021

Importantly, statutory profits are not always the best tool for understanding a company's true earnings power, so it's well worth examining profits in a little more detail. As a result, today we're going to take a closer look at Colefax Group's cashflow, and unusual items, with a view to understanding what these might tell us about its statutory profit. 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.

Zooming In On Colefax Group'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. 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. This ratio tells us how much of a company's profit is not backed by free cashflow.

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. To quote a 2014 paper by Lewellen and Resutek, "firms with higher accruals tend to be less profitable in the future".

Over the twelve months to April 2020, Colefax Group recorded an accrual ratio of -0.24. 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£6.0m in the last year, which was a lot more than its statutory profit of UK£1.92m. Colefax Group's free cash flow improved over the last year, which is generally good to see. 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 Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

Surprisingly, given Colefax Group's accrual ratio implied strong cash conversion, its paper profit was actually boosted by UK£280k in unusual items. While we like to see profit increases, we tend to be a little more cautious when unusual items have made a big contribution. We ran the numbers on most publicly listed companies worldwide, and it's very common for unusual items to be once-off in nature. And that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. Assuming those unusual items don't show up again in the current year, we'd thus expect profit to be weaker next year (in the absence of business growth, that is).

Our Take On Colefax Group's Profit Performance

In conclusion, Colefax Group's accrual ratio suggests its statutory earnings are of good quality, but on the other hand the profits were boosted by unusual items. Based on these factors, we think that Colefax Group's profits are a reasonably conservative guide to its underlying profitability. So while earnings quality is important, it's equally important to consider the risks facing Colefax Group at this point in time. Our analysis shows 3 warning signs for Colefax Group (1 makes us a bit uncomfortable!) and we strongly recommend you look at these before investing.

Our examination of Colefax Group 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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About AIM:CFX

Colefax Group

Colefax Group PLC, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the design, marketing, distribution, and retailing of furnishing fabrics, wallpapers, trimmings, upholstered furniture, and related products in the United Kingdom, the United States, rest of Europe, and internationally.

Flawless balance sheet with outstanding track record.