We Believe SolTech Energy Sweden's (STO:SOLT) Earnings Are A Poor Guide For Its Profitability

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 04, 2022
OM:SOLT
Source: Shutterstock

We didn't see SolTech Energy Sweden AB (publ)'s (STO:SOLT) stock surge when it reported robust earnings recently. We decided to have a deeper look, and we believe that investors might be worried about several concerning factors that we found.

View our latest analysis for SolTech Energy Sweden

earnings-and-revenue-history
OM:SOLT Earnings and Revenue History March 4th 2022

Zooming In On SolTech Energy Sweden'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 it's not a problem to have a positive accrual ratio, indicating a certain level of non-cash profits, a high accrual ratio is arguably a bad thing, because it indicates paper profits are not matched by cash flow. 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 December 2021, SolTech Energy Sweden had an accrual ratio of 0.39. As a general rule, that bodes poorly for future profitability. To wit, the company did not generate one whit of free cashflow in that time. In the last twelve months it actually had negative free cash flow, with an outflow of kr281m despite its profit of kr81.7m, mentioned above. Coming off the back of negative free cash flow last year, we imagine some shareholders might wonder if its cash burn of kr281m, this year, indicates high risk. Notably, the company has issued new shares, thus diluting existing shareholders and reducing their share of future earnings.

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

In order to understand the potential for per share returns, it is essential to consider how much a company is diluting shareholders. SolTech Energy Sweden expanded the number of shares on issue by 38% over the last year. That means its earnings are split among a greater number of shares. Per share metrics like EPS help us understand how much actual shareholders are benefitting from the company's profits, while the net income level gives us a better view of the company's absolute size. You can see a chart of SolTech Energy Sweden's EPS by clicking here.

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

SolTech Energy Sweden was losing money three years ago. And even focusing only on the last twelve months, we don't have a meaningful growth rate because it made a loss a year ago, too. What we do know is that while it's great to see a profit over the last twelve months, that profit would have been better, on a per share basis, if the company hadn't needed to issue shares. Therefore, one can observe that the dilution is having a fairly profound effect on shareholder returns.

In the long term, if SolTech Energy Sweden'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 the ordinary retail shareholder, EPS is a great measure to check your hypothetical "share" of the company's profit.

Our Take On SolTech Energy Sweden's Profit Performance

In conclusion, SolTech Energy Sweden has weak cashflow relative to earnings, which indicates lower quality earnings, and the dilution means that shareholders now own a smaller proportion of the company (assuming they maintained the same number of shares). For the reasons mentioned above, we think that a perfunctory glance at SolTech Energy Sweden's statutory profits might make it look better than it really is on an underlying level. If you want to do dive deeper into SolTech Energy Sweden, you'd also look into what risks it is currently facing. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for SolTech Energy Sweden (of which 1 can't be ignored!) you should know about.

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 is always more to discover if you are capable of focussing your mind on minutiae. 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. 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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