Here's Why We Think Tradelink Electronic Commerce's (HKG:536) Statutory Earnings Might Be Conservative

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 18, 2020

Many investors consider it preferable to invest in profitable companies over unprofitable ones, because profitability suggests a business is sustainable. 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. This article will consider whether Tradelink Electronic Commerce's (HKG:536) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.

While Tradelink Electronic Commerce was able to generate revenue of HK$332.2m in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of HK$68.2m was more important. As you can see in the chart below, its profit has declined over the last three years, even though its revenue has increased.

See our latest analysis for Tradelink Electronic Commerce

SEHK:536 Earnings and Revenue History December 19th 2020

Not all profits are equal, and we can learn more about the nature of a company's past profitability by diving deeper into the financial statements. As a result, today we're going to take a closer look at Tradelink Electronic Commerce's cashflow, and unusual items, with a view to understanding what these might tell us about its statutory profit. Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of Tradelink Electronic Commerce.

Zooming In On Tradelink Electronic Commerce's Earnings

As finance nerds would already know, the accrual ratio from cashflow is a key measure for assessing how well a company's free cash flow (FCF) matches its profit. In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company's average operating assets over that period. This ratio tells us how much of a company's profit is not backed by free cashflow.

Therefore, it's actually considered a good thing when a company has a negative accrual ratio, but a bad thing if its accrual ratio is positive. While having an accrual ratio above zero is of little concern, we do think it's worth noting when a company has a relatively high accrual ratio. That's because some academic studies have suggested that high accruals ratios tend to lead to lower profit or less profit growth.

Over the twelve months to June 2020, Tradelink Electronic Commerce recorded an accrual ratio of -0.12. That implies it has good cash conversion, and implies that its free cash flow solidly exceeded its profit last year. To wit, it produced free cash flow of HK$82m during the period, dwarfing its reported profit of HK$68.2m. Tradelink Electronic Commerce's free cash flow improved over the last year, which is generally good to see. 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.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

Tradelink Electronic Commerce's profit was reduced by unusual items worth HK$12m in the last twelve months, and this helped it produce high cash conversion, as reflected by its unusual items. This is what you'd expect to see where a company has a non-cash charge reducing paper profits. 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. If Tradelink Electronic Commerce doesn't see those unusual expenses repeat, then all else being equal we'd expect its profit to increase over the coming year.

Our Take On Tradelink Electronic Commerce's Profit Performance

Considering both Tradelink Electronic Commerce's accrual ratio and its unusual items, we think its statutory earnings are unlikely to exaggerate the company's underlying earnings power. Based on these factors, we think Tradelink Electronic Commerce's earnings potential is at least as good as it seems, and maybe even better! So if you'd like to dive deeper into this stock, it's crucial to consider any risks it's facing. For example - Tradelink Electronic Commerce has 3 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

Our examination of Tradelink Electronic Commerce has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. And it has passed with flying colours. 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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