Stock Analysis

Investors Shouldn't Be Too Comfortable With Hornby's (LON:HRN) Robust Earnings

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AIM:HRN
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Hornby PLC (LON:HRN) announced strong profits, but the stock was stagnant. Our analysis suggests that this might be because shareholders have noticed some concerning underlying factors.

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earnings-and-revenue-history
AIM:HRN Earnings and Revenue History June 17th 2021

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

For anyone who wants to understand Hornby's profit beyond the statutory numbers, it's important to note that during the last twelve months statutory profit was reduced by UK£211k due to unusual items. It's never great to see unusual items costing the company profits, but on the upside, things might improve sooner rather than later. When we analysed the vast majority of listed companies worldwide, we found that significant unusual items are often not repeated. And, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. If Hornby doesn't see those unusual expenses repeat, then all else being equal we'd expect its profit to increase over the coming year.

Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of Hornby.

An Unusual Tax Situation

Having already discussed the impact of the unusual items, we should also note that Hornby received a tax benefit of UK£1.0m. It's always a bit noteworthy when a company is paid by the tax man, rather than paying the tax man. The receipt of a tax benefit is obviously a good thing, on its own. And since it previously lost money, it may well simply indicate the realisation of past tax losses. However, our data indicates that tax benefits can temporarily boost statutory profit in the year it is booked, but subsequently profit may fall back. In the likely event the tax benefit is not repeated, we'd expect to see its statutory profit levels drop, at least in the absence of strong growth. So while we think it's great to receive a tax benefit, it does tend to imply an increased risk that the statutory profit overstates the sustainable earnings power of the business.

Our Take On Hornby's Profit Performance

In its last report Hornby received a tax benefit which might make its profit look better than it really is on a underlying level. Having said that, it also had a unusual item reducing its profit. Having considered these factors, we don't think Hornby's statutory profits give an overly harsh view of the business. 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. For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign that you should run your eye over to get a better picture of Hornby.

In this article we've looked at a number of factors that can impair the utility of profit numbers, as a guide to a business. 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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