Stock Analysis

Are NEXT's (LON:NXT) Statutory Earnings A Good Guide To Its Underlying Profitability?

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LSE:NXT
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As a general rule, we think profitable companies are less risky than companies that lose money. However, sometimes companies receive a one-off boost (or reduction) to their profit, and it's not always clear whether statutory profits are a good guide, going forward. In this article, we'll look at how useful this year's statutory profit is, when analysing NEXT (LON:NXT).

It's good to see that over the last twelve months NEXT made a profit of UK£610.2m on revenue of UK£4.27b. As you can see in the chart below, its profit has declined over the last three years, even though its revenue has increased.

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earnings-and-revenue-history
LSE:NXT Earnings and Revenue History August 20th 2020

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. So today we'll look at what NEXT's cashflow tells 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.

Zooming In On NEXT'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). 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. You could think of the accrual ratio from cashflow as the 'non-FCF profit ratio'.

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. That's because some academic studies have suggested that high accruals ratios tend to lead to lower profit or less profit growth.

NEXT has an accrual ratio of -0.12 for the year to January 2020. Therefore, its statutory earnings were quite a lot less than its free cashflow. To wit, it produced free cash flow of UK£791m during the period, dwarfing its reported profit of UK£610.2m. NEXT's free cash flow improved over the last year, which is generally good to see.

Our Take On NEXT's Profit Performance

NEXT's accrual ratio is solid, and indicates strong free cash flow, as we discussed, above. Because of this, we think NEXT's earnings potential is at least as good as it seems, and maybe even better! And on top of that, its earnings per share have grown at 7.0% per year over the last three years. At the end of the day, it's essential to consider more than just the factors above, if you want to understand the company properly. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for NEXT you should be aware of.

This note has only looked at a single factor that sheds light on the nature of NEXT's profit. 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. While it might take a little research on your behalf, you may find this free collection of companies boasting high return on equity, or this list of stocks that insiders are buying to be useful.

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