Why Planetree International Development's (HKG:613) Earnings Are Better Than They Seem

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 29, 2021
SEHK:613
Source: Shutterstock

Shareholders appeared to be happy with Planetree International Development Limited's (HKG:613) solid earnings report last week. Looking deeper at the numbers, we found several encouraging factors beyond the headline profit numbers.

View our latest analysis for Planetree International Development

earnings-and-revenue-history
SEHK:613 Earnings and Revenue History April 29th 2021

Examining Cashflow Against Planetree International Development'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. This ratio tells us how much of a company's profit is not backed by free cashflow.

As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. 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".

Planetree International Development has an accrual ratio of 0.36 for the year to December 2020. 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. Even though it reported a profit of HK$41.8m, a look at free cash flow indicates it actually burnt through HK$517m 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 HK$517m, this year, indicates high risk. Having said that, there is more to the story. We can see that unusual items have impacted its statutory profit, and therefore the accrual ratio.

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

How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?

Finally, we should also talk about the HK$65m in unusual items that weighed on profit over the year. While deductions due to unusual items are disappointing in the first instance, there is a silver lining. When we analysed the vast majority of listed companies worldwide, we found that significant unusual items are often not repeated. And that's hardly a surprise given these line items are considered unusual. In the twelve months to December 2020, Planetree International Development had a big unusual items expense. As a result, we can surmise that the unusual items made its statutory profit significantly weaker than it would otherwise be.

Our Take On Planetree International Development's Profit Performance

Planetree International Development saw unusual items weigh on its profit, which should have made it easier to show high cash conversion, which it did not do, according to its accrual ratio. Given the contrasting considerations, we don't have a strong view as to whether Planetree International Development's profits are an apt reflection of its underlying potential for profit. With this in mind, we wouldn't consider investing in a stock unless we had a thorough understanding of the risks. Be aware that Planetree International Development is showing 5 warning signs in our investment analysis and 2 of those can't be ignored...

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 are plenty of other ways to inform your opinion of a company. 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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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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Simply Wall St is focused on providing unbiased, high-quality research coverage on every listed company in the world. Our research team consists of data scientists and multiple equity analysts with over two decades worth of financial markets experience between them.