Stock Analysis

We're Not So Sure You Should Rely on MECOM Power and Construction's (HKG:1183) Statutory Earnings

SEHK:1183
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Broadly speaking, profitable businesses are less risky than unprofitable ones. 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. In this article, we'll look at how useful this year's statutory profit is, when analysing MECOM Power and Construction (HKG:1183).

It's good to see that over the last twelve months MECOM Power and Construction made a profit of MO$64.6m on revenue of MO$654.4m. We know some investors love those high revenue growth stocks, but we do like to look at profit, even if it is, perhaps, a bit old fashioned. While it managed to grow its revenue over the last three years, its profit has moved in the other direction, as you can see in the chart below.

See our latest analysis for MECOM Power and Construction

earnings-and-revenue-history
SEHK:1183 Earnings and Revenue History February 15th 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. So today we'll look at what MECOM Power and Construction's cashflow tells us about the quality of its earnings. Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of MECOM Power and Construction.

A Closer Look At MECOM Power and Construction'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. In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company's average operating assets over that 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. 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".

For the year to June 2020, MECOM Power and Construction had an accrual ratio of 0.40. Statistically speaking, that's a real negative for future earnings. And indeed, during the period the company didn't produce any free cash flow whatsoever. In the last twelve months it actually had negative free cash flow, with an outflow of MO$15m despite its profit of MO$64.6m, mentioned above. Coming off the back of negative free cash flow last year, we imagine some shareholders might wonder if its cash burn of MO$15m, this year, indicates high risk.

Our Take On MECOM Power and Construction's Profit Performance

As we have made quite clear, we're a bit worried that MECOM Power and Construction didn't back up the last year's profit with free cashflow. For this reason, we think that MECOM Power and Construction's statutory profits may be a bad guide to its underlying earnings power, and might give investors an overly positive impression of the company. But at least holders can take some solace from the 66% EPS growth in the last year. Of course, we've only just scratched the surface when it comes to analysing its earnings; one could also consider margins, forecast growth, and return on investment, among other factors. Keep in mind, when it comes to analysing a stock it's worth noting the risks involved. For example, MECOM Power and Construction has 4 warning signs (and 2 which are potentially serious) we think you should know about.

Today we've zoomed in on a single data point to better understand the nature of MECOM Power and Construction's profit. 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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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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