Is There More To The Story Than HeadHunter Group’s (NASDAQ:HHR) Earnings Growth?

As a general rule, we think profitable companies are less risky than companies that lose money. However, sometimes companies receive a one-off boost (or reduction) to their profit, and it’s not always clear whether statutory profits are a good guide, going forward. This article will consider whether HeadHunter Group‘s (NASDAQ:HHR) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.

We like the fact that HeadHunter Group made a profit of ₽1.35b on its revenue of ₽7.41b, in the last year. One positive is that it has grown both its profit and its revenue, over the last few years.

Check out our latest analysis for HeadHunter Group

NasdaqGS:HHR Income Statement, January 22nd 2020
NasdaqGS:HHR Income Statement, January 22nd 2020

Importantly, statutory profits are not always the best tool for understanding a company’s true earnings power, so it’s well worth examining profits in a little more detail. Today, we’ll discuss HeadHunter Group’s free cashflow relative to its earnings, and consider what that tells us about the company. 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.

A Closer Look At HeadHunter Group’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. 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. 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. To quote a 2014 paper by Lewellen and Resutek, “firms with higher accruals tend to be less profitable in the future”.

For the year to September 2019, HeadHunter Group had an accrual ratio of -0.13. That implies it has good cash conversion, and implies that its free cash flow solidly exceeded its profit last year. Indeed, in the last twelve months it reported free cash flow of ₽2.2b, well over the ₽1.35b it reported in profit. HeadHunter Group shareholders are no doubt pleased that free cash flow improved over the last twelve months.

Our Take On HeadHunter Group’s Profit Performance

HeadHunter Group’s accrual ratio is solid, and indicates strong free cash flow, as we discussed, above. Based on this observation, we consider it likely that HeadHunter Group’s statutory profit actually understates its earnings potential! Furthermore, it has done a great job growing EPS over the last year. At the end of the day, it’s essential to consider more than just the factors above, if you want to understand the company properly. Obviously, we love to consider the historical data to inform our opinion of a company. But it can be really valuable to consider what other analysts are forecasting. So feel free to check out our free graph representing analyst forecasts.

This note has only looked at a single factor that sheds light on the nature of HeadHunter Group’s profit. 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. 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.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.