We didn't see Shoper S.A.'s (WSE:SHO) stock surge when it reported robust earnings recently. We think that investors might be worried about the foundations the earnings are built on.
Zooming In On Shoper'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). In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company's average operating assets over that period. 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. 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".
Shoper has an accrual ratio of 0.44 for the year to September 2021. Ergo, its free cash flow is significantly weaker than its profit. As a general rule, that bodes poorly for future profitability. In fact, it had free cash flow of zł19m in the last year, which was a lot less than its statutory profit of zł23.0m. At this point we should mention that Shoper did manage to increase its free cash flow in the last twelve months However, that's not all there is to consider. The accrual ratio is reflecting the impact of unusual items on statutory profit, at least in part. One positive for Shoper 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. Shareholders should look for improved cashflow relative to profit in the current year, if that is indeed the case.
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.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
On top of the noteworthy accrual ratio and the spike in non-operating revenue, we can also see that Shoper benefitted from unusual items worth zł9.7m in the last twelve months. We can't deny that higher profits generally leave us optimistic, but we'd prefer it if the profit were to be sustainable. 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. We can see that Shoper's positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to September 2021. 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 Shoper's Profit Performance
Summing up, Shoper received a nice boost to profit from unusual items, but could not match its paper profit with free cash flow. For all the reasons mentioned above, we think that, at a glance, Shoper's statutory profits could be considered to be low quality, because they are likely to give investors an overly positive impression of the company. If you want to do dive deeper into Shoper, you'd also look into what risks it is currently facing. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Shoper (1 shouldn't be ignored) you should be familiar with.
Our examination of Shoper 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. 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.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.