Stock Analysis

Avarga's (SGX:U09) Conservative Accounting Might Explain Soft Earnings

SGX:U09
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Shareholders appeared unconcerned with Avarga Limited's (SGX:U09) lackluster earnings report last week. Our analysis suggests that while the profits are soft, the foundations of the business are strong.

See our latest analysis for Avarga

earnings-and-revenue-history
SGX:U09 Earnings and Revenue History April 9th 2024

Examining Cashflow Against Avarga'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). 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. This ratio tells us how much of a company's profit is not backed by free cashflow.

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".

Over the twelve months to December 2023, Avarga recorded an accrual ratio of -0.28. Therefore, its statutory earnings were very significantly less than its free cashflow. In fact, it had free cash flow of S$104m in the last year, which was a lot more than its statutory profit of S$10.9m. Avarga 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.

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

How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?

Avarga's profit was reduced by unusual items worth S$15m in the last twelve months, and this helped it produce high cash conversion, as reflected by its unusual items. This is what you'd expect to see where a company has a non-cash charge reducing paper profits. While deductions due to unusual items are disappointing in the first instance, there is a silver lining. We looked at thousands of listed companies and found that unusual items are very often one-off in nature. And that's hardly a surprise given these line items are considered unusual. If Avarga 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 Avarga's Profit Performance

Considering both Avarga'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 Avarga's underlying earnings potential is as good as, or probably even better, than the statutory profit makes it seem! If you want to do dive deeper into Avarga, you'd also look into what risks it is currently facing. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Avarga you should be aware of.

Our examination of Avarga has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. And it has passed with flying colours. 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.

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

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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.