Stock Analysis

We're Not So Sure You Should Rely on Waffer Technology's (TPE:6235) Statutory Earnings

TWSE:6235
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Statistically speaking, it is less risky to invest in profitable companies than in unprofitable ones. 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. Today we'll focus on whether this year's statutory profits are a good guide to understanding Waffer Technology (TPE:6235).

While Waffer Technology was able to generate revenue of NT$1.86b in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of NT$574.8m was more important. Even though revenue is down over the last three years, you can see in the chart below that the company has moved from loss-making to profitable.

View our latest analysis for Waffer Technology

earnings-and-revenue-history
TSEC:6235 Earnings and Revenue History December 23rd 2020

Not all profits are equal, and we can learn more about the nature of a company's past profitability by diving deeper into the financial statements. Therefore, we think it's worth taking a closer look at Waffer Technology's cashflow, as well as examining the impact that unusual items have had on its reported profit. Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of Waffer Technology.

Zooming In On Waffer Technology's Earnings

One key financial ratio used to measure how well a company converts its profit to free cash flow (FCF) is the accrual ratio. 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. You could think of the accrual ratio from cashflow as the 'non-FCF profit ratio'.

As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. That is not intended to imply we should worry about a positive accrual ratio, but it's worth noting where the accrual ratio is rather high. 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 September 2020, Waffer Technology had an accrual ratio of 0.55. As a general rule, that bodes poorly for future profitability. And indeed, during the period the company didn't produce any free cash flow whatsoever. Even though it reported a profit of NT$574.8m, a look at free cash flow indicates it actually burnt through NT$597m in the last year. Coming off the back of negative free cash flow last year, we imagine some shareholders might wonder if its cash burn of NT$597m, this year, indicates high risk. 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. One positive for Waffer Technology 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. As a result, some shareholders may be looking for stronger cash conversion in the current year.

How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?

Given the accrual ratio, it's not overly surprising that Waffer Technology's profit was boosted by unusual items worth NT$645m 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 crunched the numbers on thousands of publicly listed companies, we found that a boost from unusual items in a given year is often not repeated the next year. And that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. Waffer Technology had a rather significant contribution from unusual items relative to its profit to September 2020. 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 Waffer Technology's Profit Performance

Waffer Technology had a weak accrual ratio, but its profit did receive a boost from unusual items. For all the reasons mentioned above, we think that, at a glance, Waffer Technology's statutory profits could be considered to be low quality, because they are likely to give investors an overly positive impression of the company. Keep in mind, when it comes to analysing a stock it's worth noting the risks involved. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 1 warning sign with Waffer Technology, and understanding it should be part of your investment process.

Our examination of Waffer Technology 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.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
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