Many investors consider it preferable to invest in profitable companies over unprofitable ones, because profitability suggests a business is sustainable. 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 Sprocomm Intelligence (HKG:1401).
It's good to see that over the last twelve months Sprocomm Intelligence made a profit of CN¥38.1m on revenue of CN¥2.85b. The chart below shows that it has grown revenue over the last three years, while profit has remained roughly flat.
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. Therefore, we think it's worth taking a closer look at Sprocomm Intelligence'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 Sprocomm Intelligence.
Zooming In On Sprocomm Intelligence's Earnings
One key financial ratio used to measure how well a company converts its profit to free cash flow (FCF) is the accrual ratio. The accrual ratio subtracts the FCF from the profit for a given period, and divides the result by the average operating assets of the company over that time. The ratio shows us how much a company's profit exceeds its FCF.
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. 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, Sprocomm Intelligence recorded an accrual ratio of 0.27. Unfortunately, that means its free cash flow fell significantly short of its reported profits. To wit, it produced free cash flow of CN¥8.8m during the period, falling well short of its reported profit of CN¥38.1m. Sprocomm Intelligence shareholders will no doubt be hoping that its free cash flow bounces back next year, since it was down over the last twelve months. 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 good news for shareholders is that Sprocomm Intelligence's accrual ratio was much better last year, so this year's poor reading might simply be a case of a short term mismatch between profit and FCF. Shareholders should look for improved cashflow relative to profit in the current year, if that is indeed the case.
The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit
The fact that the company had unusual items boosting profit by CN¥51m, 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. We ran the numbers on most publicly listed companies worldwide, and it's very common for unusual items to be once-off in nature. Which is hardly surprising, given the name. Sprocomm Intelligence had a rather significant contribution from unusual items relative to its profit 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 Sprocomm Intelligence's Profit Performance
Summing up, Sprocomm Intelligence received a nice boost to profit from unusual items, but could not match its paper profit with free cash flow. For the reasons mentioned above, we think that a perfunctory glance at Sprocomm Intelligence's statutory profits might make it look better than it really is on an underlying level. In light of this, if you'd like to do more analysis on the company, it's vital to be informed of the risks involved. When we did our research, we found 3 warning signs for Sprocomm Intelligence (2 are a bit concerning!) that we believe deserve your full attention.
In this article we've looked at a number of factors that can impair the utility of profit numbers, and we've come away cautious. 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. 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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