Stock Analysis

Clas Ohlson's (STO:CLAS B) Conservative Accounting Might Explain Soft Earnings

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Clas Ohlson AB (publ)'s (STO:CLAS B) recent soft profit numbers didn't appear to worry shareholders, as the stock price showed strength. However, we think the company is showing some signs that things are more promising than they seem.

Check out our latest analysis for Clas Ohlson

OM:CLAS B Earnings and Revenue History December 18th 2023

Zooming In On Clas Ohlson's Earnings

As finance nerds would already know, the accrual ratio from cashflow is a key measure for assessing how well a company's free cash flow (FCF) matches its profit. In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company's average operating assets over that period. You could think of the accrual ratio from cashflow as the 'non-FCF profit ratio'.

Therefore, it's actually considered a good thing when a company has a negative accrual ratio, but a bad thing if its accrual ratio is positive. 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.

For the year to October 2023, Clas Ohlson had an accrual ratio of -0.78. Therefore, its statutory earnings were very significantly less than its free cashflow. To wit, it produced free cash flow of kr1.6b during the period, dwarfing its reported profit of kr282.3m. Given that Clas Ohlson had negative free cash flow in the prior corresponding period, the trailing twelve month resul of kr1.6b would seem to be a step in the right direction. 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.

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.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

Clas Ohlson's profit was reduced by unusual items worth kr341m 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. It's never great to see unusual items costing the company profits, but on the upside, things might improve sooner rather than later. We looked at thousands of listed companies and found that unusual items are very often one-off in nature. And, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. In the twelve months to October 2023, Clas Ohlson had a big unusual items expense. As a result, we can surmise that the unusual items made its statutory profit significantly weaker than it would otherwise be.

Our Take On Clas Ohlson's Profit Performance

Considering both Clas Ohlson's accrual ratio and its unusual items, we think its statutory earnings are unlikely to exaggerate the company's underlying earnings power. Based on these factors, we think Clas Ohlson's underlying earnings potential is as good as, or probably even better, than the statutory profit makes it seem! So while earnings quality is important, it's equally important to consider the risks facing Clas Ohlson at this point in time. While conducting our analysis, we found that Clas Ohlson has 1 warning sign and it would be unwise to ignore it.

Our examination of Clas Ohlson has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. And it has passed with flying colours. But there is always more to discover if you are capable of focussing your mind on minutiae. 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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Clas Ohlson is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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.