As a general rule, we think profitable companies are less risky than companies that lose money. Having said that, sometimes statutory profit levels are not a good guide to ongoing profitability, because some short term one-off factor has impacted profit levels. This article will consider whether Green Cross Health's (NZSE:GXH) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.
We like the fact that Green Cross Health made a profit of NZ$15.3m on its revenue of NZ$570.3m, 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.
Of course, when it comes to statutory profit, the devil is often in the detail, and we can get a better sense for a company by diving deeper into the financial statements. As a result, today we're going to take a closer look at Green Cross Health'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 Green Cross Health.
A Closer Look At Green Cross Health'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. 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.
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. To quote a 2014 paper by Lewellen and Resutek, "firms with higher accruals tend to be less profitable in the future".
For the year to September 2020, Green Cross Health had an accrual ratio of -0.34. That implies it has very good cash conversion, and that its earnings in the last year actually significantly understate its free cash flow. In fact, it had free cash flow of NZ$67m in the last year, which was a lot more than its statutory profit of NZ$15.3m. Green Cross Health shareholders are no doubt pleased that free cash flow improved over the last twelve months. Having said that, there is more to the story. The accrual ratio is reflecting the impact of unusual items on statutory profit, at least in part.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
Green Cross Health's profit was reduced by unusual items worth NZ$4.7m in the last twelve months, and this helped it produce high cash conversion, as reflected by its unusual items. In a scenario where those unusual items included non-cash charges, we'd expect to see a strong accrual ratio, which is exactly what has happened in this case. 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, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. If Green Cross Health 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 Green Cross Health's Profit Performance
In conclusion, both Green Cross Health's accrual ratio and its unusual items suggest that its statutory earnings are probably reasonably conservative. After considering all this, we reckon Green Cross Health's statutory profit probably understates its earnings potential! 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. You'd be interested to know, that we found 1 warning sign for Green Cross Health and you'll want to know about it.
After our examination into the nature of Green Cross Health's profit, we've come away optimistic for the company. 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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