It might be old fashioned, but we really like to invest in companies that make a profit, each and every year. That said, the current statutory profit is not always a good guide to a company's underlying profitability. Today we'll focus on whether this year's statutory profits are a good guide to understanding Northamber (LON:NAR).
While Northamber was able to generate revenue of UK£52.8m in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of UK£8.51m was more important. Even though revenue is down over the last three years, you can see in the chart below that the company has moved from loss-making to profitable.
Of course, when it comes to statutory profit, the devil is often in the detail, and we can get a better sense for a company by diving deeper into the financial statements. Therefore, we think it's worth taking a closer look at Northamber's cashflow, as well as examining the impact that unusual items have had on its reported profit. Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of Northamber.
A Closer Look At Northamber's Earnings
Many investors haven't heard of the accrual ratio from cashflow, but it is actually a useful measure of how well a company's profit is backed up by free cash flow (FCF) during a given period. 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'.
That means a negative accrual ratio is a good thing, because it shows that the company is bringing in more free cash flow than its profit would suggest. That is not intended to imply we should worry about a positive accrual ratio, but it's worth noting where the accrual ratio is rather high. To quote a 2014 paper by Lewellen and Resutek, "firms with higher accruals tend to be less profitable in the future".
For the year to June 2020, Northamber had an accrual ratio of 1.11. Statistically speaking, that's a real negative for future earnings. To wit, the company did not generate one whit of free cashflow in that time. Even though it reported a profit of UK£8.51m, a look at free cash flow indicates it actually burnt through UK£6.6m in the last year. Coming off the back of negative free cash flow last year, we imagine some shareholders might wonder if its cash burn of UK£6.6m, this year, indicates high risk. 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.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
The fact that the company had unusual items boosting profit by UK£11m, in the last year, probably goes some way to explain why its accrual ratio was so weak. While we like to see profit increases, we tend to be a little more cautious when unusual items have made a big contribution. When we analysed the vast majority of listed companies worldwide, we found that significant unusual items are often not repeated. Which is hardly surprising, given the name. We can see that Northamber's positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to June 2020. All else being equal, this would likely have the effect of making the statutory profit a poor guide to underlying earnings power.
Our Take On Northamber's Profit Performance
Summing up, Northamber received a nice boost to profit from unusual items, but could not match its paper profit with free cash flow. On reflection, the above-mentioned factors give us the strong impression that Northamber'sunderlying earnings power is not as good as it might seem, based on the statutory profit numbers. With this in mind, we wouldn't consider investing in a stock unless we had a thorough understanding of the risks. When we did our research, we found 2 warning signs for Northamber (1 makes us a bit uncomfortable!) that we believe deserve your full attention.
Our examination of Northamber has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. And, on that basis, we are somewhat skeptical. 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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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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