We didn't see Workhorse Group Inc.'s (NASDAQ:WKHS) 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.
Zooming In On Workhorse Group'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. The accrual ratio subtracts the FCF from the profit for a given period, and divides the result by the average operating assets of the company over that time. You could think of the accrual ratio from cashflow as the 'non-FCF profit ratio'.
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. 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.
Workhorse Group has an accrual ratio of 3.32 for the year to June 2021. 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. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of US$142m, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of US$32.2m. We also note that Workhorse Group's free cash flow was actually negative last year as well, so we could understand if shareholders were bothered by its outflow of US$142m. Having said that, there is more to consider. We can look at how unusual items in the profit and loss statement impacted its accrual ratio, as well as explore how dilution is impacting shareholders negatively.
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.
In order to understand the potential for per share returns, it is essential to consider how much a company is diluting shareholders. Workhorse Group expanded the number of shares on issue by 18% over the last year. That means its earnings are split among a greater number of shares. To talk about net income, without noticing earnings per share, is to be distracted by the big numbers while ignoring the smaller numbers that talk to per share value. Check out Workhorse Group's historical EPS growth by clicking on this link.
A Look At The Impact Of Workhorse Group's Dilution on Its Earnings Per Share (EPS).
Workhorse Group was losing money three years ago. Zooming in to the last year, we still can't talk about growth rates coherently, since it made a loss last year. But mathematics aside, it is always good to see when a formerly unprofitable business come good (though we accept profit would have been higher if dilution had not been required). And so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is influencing shareholder earnings.
In the long term, if Workhorse Group's earnings per share can increase, then the share price should too. However, if its profit increases while its earnings per share stay flat (or even fall) then shareholders might not see much benefit. For that reason, you could say that EPS is more important that net income in the long run, assuming the goal is to assess whether a company's share price might grow.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
Given the accrual ratio, it's not overly surprising that Workhorse Group's profit was boosted by unusual items worth US$166m 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 that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. We can see that Workhorse Group's positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to June 2021. As a result, we can surmise that the unusual items are making its statutory profit significantly stronger than it would otherwise be.
Our Take On Workhorse Group's Profit Performance
Workhorse Group didn't back up its earnings with free cashflow, but this isn't too surprising given profits were inflated by unusual items. The dilution means the results are weaker when viewed from a per-share perspective. For all the reasons mentioned above, we think that, at a glance, Workhorse Group'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. Be aware that Workhorse Group is showing 5 warning signs in our investment analysis and 2 of those are a bit unpleasant...
Our examination of Workhorse Group 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 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.
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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.
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