Why Staffing 360 Solutions' (NASDAQ:STAF) Healthy Earnings Aren’t As Good As They Seem

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 22, 2021
NasdaqCM:STAF
Source: Shutterstock

Solid profit numbers didn't seem to be enough to please Staffing 360 Solutions, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:STAF) shareholders. We think that they might be concerned about some underlying details that our analysis found.

View our latest analysis for Staffing 360 Solutions

earnings-and-revenue-history
NasdaqCM:STAF Earnings and Revenue History November 23rd 2021

A Closer Look At Staffing 360 Solutions' 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. This ratio tells us how much of a company's profit is not backed by free cashflow.

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 it's not a problem to have a positive accrual ratio, indicating a certain level of non-cash profits, a high accrual ratio is arguably a bad thing, because it indicates paper profits are not matched by cash flow. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.

Staffing 360 Solutions has an accrual ratio of 0.34 for the year to October 2021. Therefore, we know that it's free cashflow was significantly lower than its statutory profit, raising questions about how useful that profit figure really is. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of US$13m, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of US$3.01m. Coming off the back of negative free cash flow last year, we imagine some shareholders might wonder if its cash burn of US$13m, this year, indicates high risk. However, that's not the end of the story. We must also consider the impact of unusual items on statutory profit (and thus the accrual ratio), as well as note the ramifications of the company issuing new shares. The good news for shareholders is that Staffing 360 Solutions' accrual ratio was much better last year, so this year's poor reading might simply be a case of a short term mismatch between profit and FCF. Shareholders should look for improved cashflow relative to profit in the current year, if that is indeed the case.

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.

To understand the value of a company's earnings growth, it is imperative to consider any dilution of shareholders' interests. As it happens, Staffing 360 Solutions issued 986% more new shares over the last year. As a result, its net income is now split between a greater number of shares. Per share metrics like EPS help us understand how much actual shareholders are benefitting from the company's profits, while the net income level gives us a better view of the company's absolute size. You can see a chart of Staffing 360 Solutions' EPS by clicking here.

A Look At The Impact Of Staffing 360 Solutions' Dilution on Its Earnings Per Share (EPS).

Three years ago, Staffing 360 Solutions lost money. Zooming in to the last year, we still can't talk about growth rates coherently, since it made a loss last year. What we do know is that while it's great to see a profit over the last twelve months, that profit would have been better, on a per share basis, if the company hadn't needed to issue shares. And so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is having a rather significant impact on shareholders.

If Staffing 360 Solutions' EPS can grow over time then that drastically improves the chances of the share price moving in the same direction. But on the other hand, we'd be far less excited to learn profit (but not EPS) was improving. 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.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

The fact that the company had unusual items boosting profit by US$20m, in the last year, probably goes some way to explain why its accrual ratio was so weak. 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. Which is hardly surprising, given the name. We can see that Staffing 360 Solutions' positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to October 2021. 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 Staffing 360 Solutions' Profit Performance

Staffing 360 Solutions didn't back up its earnings with free cashflow, but this isn't too surprising given profits were inflated by unusual items. Meanwhile, the new shares issued mean that shareholders now own less of the company, unless they tipped in more cash themselves. On reflection, the above-mentioned factors give us the strong impression that Staffing 360 Solutions'underlying earnings power is not as good as it might seem, based on the statutory profit numbers. With this in mind, we wouldn't consider investing in a stock unless we had a thorough understanding of the risks. To that end, you should learn about the 6 warning signs we've spotted with Staffing 360 Solutions (including 4 which are a bit concerning).

In this article we've looked at a number of factors that can impair the utility of profit numbers, and we've come away cautious. 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.

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