We Believe That Coastal's (NSE:COASTCORP) Weak Earnings Are A Good Indicator Of Underlying Profitability

Simply Wall St
November 19, 2021
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Coastal Corporation Limited (NSE:COASTCORP) recently posted soft earnings but shareholders didn't react strongly. Our analysis suggests that they may be missing some concerning details underlying the profit numbers.

View our latest analysis for Coastal

NSEI:COASTCORP Earnings and Revenue History November 20th 2021

Examining Cashflow Against Coastal's Earnings

In high finance, the key ratio used to measure how well a company converts reported profits into free cash flow (FCF) is the accrual ratio (from cashflow). 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. 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.

Coastal has an accrual ratio of 0.40 for the year to September 2021. 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 ₹171.4m, a look at free cash flow indicates it actually burnt through ₹887m in the last year. It's worth noting that Coastal generated positive FCF of ₹653m a year ago, so at least they've done it in the past. Unfortunately for shareholders, the company has also been issuing new shares, diluting their share of future earnings. One positive for Coastal shareholders is that it's accrual ratio was significantly better last year, providing reason to believe that it may return to stronger cash conversion in the future. As a result, some shareholders may be looking for stronger cash conversion in the current year.

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

One essential aspect of assessing earnings quality is to look at how much a company is diluting shareholders. In fact, Coastal increased the number of shares on issue by 5.0% over the last twelve months by issuing new shares. Therefore, each share now receives a smaller portion of profit. To celebrate net income while ignoring dilution is like rejoicing because you have a single slice of a larger pizza, but ignoring the fact that the pizza is now cut into many more slices. Check out Coastal's historical EPS growth by clicking on this link.

A Look At The Impact Of Coastal's Dilution on Its Earnings Per Share (EPS).

Unfortunately, Coastal's profit is down 60% per year over three years. And even focusing only on the last twelve months, we see profit is down 39%. Sadly, earnings per share fell further, down a full 41% in that time. And so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is influencing shareholder earnings.

In the long term, if Coastal's earnings per share can increase, then the share price should too. But on the other hand, we'd be far less excited to learn profit (but not EPS) was improving. 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.

Our Take On Coastal's Profit Performance

As it turns out, Coastal couldn't match its profit with cashflow and its dilution means that shareholders own less of the company than the did before (unless they bought more shares). For the reasons mentioned above, we think that a perfunctory glance at Coastal's statutory profits might make it look better than it really is on an underlying level. Keep in mind, when it comes to analysing a stock it's worth noting the risks involved. To that end, you should learn about the 6 warning signs we've spotted with Coastal (including 2 which are potentially serious).

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. 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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