We Think Perdoceo Education’s (NASDAQ:PRDO) Statutory Profit Might Understate Its Earnings Potential

Broadly speaking, profitable businesses are less risky than unprofitable ones. That said, the current statutory profit is not always a good guide to a company’s underlying profitability. Today we’ll focus on whether this year’s statutory profits are a good guide to understanding Perdoceo Education (NASDAQ:PRDO).

While Perdoceo Education was able to generate revenue of US$614.8m in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of US$57.0m was more important.

See our latest analysis for Perdoceo Education

NasdaqGS:PRDO Income Statement, January 21st 2020
NasdaqGS:PRDO Income Statement, January 21st 2020

Of course, it is only sensible to look beyond the statutory profits and question how well those numbers represent the sustainable earnings power of the business. As a result, today we’re going to take a closer look at Perdoceo Education’s cashflow, and unusual items, with a view to understanding what these might tell us about its statutory profit. 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.

Examining Cashflow Against Perdoceo Education’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). In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company’s average operating assets over that period. The ratio shows us how much a company’s profit exceeds its FCF.

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 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”.

For the year to September 2019, Perdoceo Education had an accrual ratio of -0.45. Therefore, its statutory earnings were very significantly less than its free cashflow. Indeed, in the last twelve months it reported free cash flow of US$118m, well over the US$57.0m it reported in profit. Perdoceo Education’s free cash flow improved over the last year, which is generally good to see.

However, that’s not all there is to consider. We can see that unusual items have impacted its statutory profit, and therefore the accrual ratio.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

Perdoceo Education’s profit was reduced by unusual items worth US$53m in the last twelve months, and this helped it produce high cash conversion, as reflected by its unusual items. In a scenario where those unusual items included non-cash charges, we’d expect to see a strong accrual ratio, which is exactly what has happened in this case. It’s never great to see unusual items costing the company profits, but on the upside, things might improve sooner rather than later. 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. In the twelve months to September 2019, Perdoceo Education had a big unusual items expense. All else being equal, this would likely have the effect of making the statutory profit look worse than its underlying earnings power.

Our Take On Perdoceo Education’s Profit Performance

Considering both Perdoceo Education’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 Perdoceo Education’s underlying earnings potential is as good as, or probably even better, than the statutory profit makes it seem! 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. Luckily, you can check out what analysts are forecsting by clicking here.

Our examination of Perdoceo Education has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. And it has passed with flying colours. But there is always more to discover if you are capable of focussing your mind on minutiae. 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. 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.

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