Here's Why We Don't Think ICO Group's (HKG:1460) Statutory Earnings Reflect Its Underlying Earnings Potential

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 13, 2020

Broadly speaking, profitable businesses are less risky than unprofitable ones. That said, the current statutory profit is not always a good guide to a company's underlying profitability. In this article, we'll look at how useful this year's statutory profit is, when analysing ICO Group (HKG:1460).

We like the fact that ICO Group made a profit of HK$23.9m on its revenue of HK$684.5m, in the last year. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for ICO Group

SEHK:1460 Income Statement, January 13th 2020

Of course, it is only sensible to look beyond the statutory profits and question how well those numbers represent the sustainable earnings power of the business. In this article we'll look at how ICO Group is impacting shareholders by issuing new shares, as well as how unusual items have affected the income line. Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of ICO Group.

To understand the value of a company's earnings growth, it is imperative to consider any dilution of shareholders' interests. As it happens, ICO Group issued 11% more new shares over the last year. Therefore, each share now receives a smaller portion of profit. Per share metrics like EPS help us understand how much actual shareholders are benefitting from the company's profits, while the net income level gives us a better view of the company's absolute size. Check out ICO Group's historical EPS growth by clicking on this link.

How Is Dilution Impacting ICO Group's Earnings Per Share? (EPS)

Unfortunately, ICO Group's profit is down 23% per year over three years. And even focusing only on the last twelve months, we see profit is down 69%. Like a sack of potatoes thrown from a delivery truck, EPS fell harder, down 72% in the same period. So you can see that the dilution has had a bit of an impact on shareholders.Therefore, the dilution is having a noteworthy influence on shareholder returnsAnd so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is influencing shareholder earnings.

In the long term, if ICO Group's earnings per share can increase, then the share price should too. However, if its profit increases while its earnings per share stay flat (or even fall) then shareholders might not see much benefit. For that reason, you could say that EPS is more important that net income in the long run, assuming the goal is to assess whether a company's share price might grow.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

Alongside that dilution, it's also important to note that ICO Group's profit was boosted by unusual items worth HK$15m in the last twelve months. While it's always nice to have higher profit, a large contribution from unusual items sometimes dampens our enthusiasm. When we analysed the vast majority of listed companies worldwide, we found that significant unusual items are often not repeated. And that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. ICO Group had a rather significant contribution from unusual items relative to its profit to September 2019. 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 ICO Group's Profit Performance

To sum it all up, ICO Group got a nice boost to profit from unusual items; without that, its statutory results would have looked worse. And furthermore, it went and issued plenty of new shares, ensuring that each shareholder (who did not tip more money in) now owns a smaller proportion of the company. Considering all this we'd argue ICO Group's profits probably give an overly generous impression of its sustainable level of profitability. Just as investors must consider earnings, it is also important to take into account the strength of a company's balance sheet. If you're interestedwe have a graphic representation of ICO Group's balance sheet.

Our examination of ICO Group 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. Some people consider a high return on equity to be a good sign of a quality business. 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.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.

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