Stock Analysis

Unidata's (BIT:UD) Robust Earnings Are Not All Good News For Shareholders

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Even though Unidata S.p.A. (BIT:UD) posted strong earnings recently, the stock hasn't reacted in a large way. We think that investors might be worried about the foundations the earnings are built on.

Check out our latest analysis for Unidata

BIT:UD Earnings and Revenue History October 7th 2021

A Closer Look At Unidata'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. The ratio shows us how much a company's profit exceeds its FCF.

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. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.

For the year to June 2021, Unidata had an accrual ratio of 0.93. Statistically speaking, that's a real negative for future earnings. To wit, the company did not generate one whit of free cashflow in that time. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of €3.7m, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of €5.74m. It's worth noting that Unidata generated positive FCF of €4.7m a year ago, so at least they've done it in the past. However, as we will discuss below, we can see that the company's accrual ratio has been impacted by its tax situation. This would partially explain why the accrual ratio was so poor. One positive for Unidata 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.

That might leave you wondering what analysts are forecasting in terms of future profitability. Luckily, you can click here to see an interactive graph depicting future profitability, based on their estimates.

An Unusual Tax Situation

Moving on from the accrual ratio, we note that Unidata profited from a tax benefit which contributed €439k to profit. It's always a bit noteworthy when a company is paid by the tax man, rather than paying the tax man. We're sure the company was pleased with its tax benefit. However, our data indicates that tax benefits can temporarily boost statutory profit in the year it is booked, but subsequently profit may fall back. Assuming the tax benefit is not repeated every year, we could see its profitability drop noticeably, all else being equal. So while we think it's great to receive a tax benefit, it does tend to imply an increased risk that the statutory profit overstates the sustainable earnings power of the business.

Our Take On Unidata's Profit Performance

This year, Unidata couldn't match its profit with cashflow. On top of that, the unsustainable nature of tax benefits mean that there's a chance profit may be lower next year, certainly in the absence of strong growth. Considering all this we'd argue Unidata's profits probably give an overly generous impression of its sustainable level of profitability. If you want to do dive deeper into Unidata, you'd also look into what risks it is currently facing. For example - Unidata has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.

Our examination of Unidata 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 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. 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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