Here's Why We Don't Think Gran Tierra Energy's (NYSEMKT:GTE) Statutory Earnings Reflect Its Underlying Earnings Potential

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 11, 2020
AMEX:GTE

As a general rule, we think profitable companies are less risky than companies that lose money. 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. This article will consider whether Gran Tierra Energy's (NYSEMKT:GTE) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.

While Gran Tierra Energy was able to generate revenue of US$571.0m in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of US$38.7m was more important. The good news is that the company managed to grow its revenue over the last three years, and also move from loss-making to profitable.

View our latest analysis for Gran Tierra Energy

AMEX:GTE Income Statement April 11th 2020
AMEX:GTE Income Statement April 11th 2020

Of course, when it comes to statutory profit, the devil is often in the detail, and we can get a better sense for a company by diving deeper into the financial statements. Therefore, we think it's worth taking a closer look at Gran Tierra Energy's cashflow, as well as examining the impact that unusual items have had on its reported 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 Gran Tierra Energy'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. This ratio tells us how much of a company's profit is not backed by free cashflow.

As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. 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. That's because some academic studies have suggested that high accruals ratios tend to lead to lower profit or less profit growth.

For the year to December 2019, Gran Tierra Energy had an accrual ratio of 0.21. Unfortunately, that means its free cash flow fell significantly short of its reported profits. In the last twelve months it actually had negative free cash flow, with an outflow of US$279m despite its profit of US$38.7m, mentioned above. We also note that Gran Tierra Energy's free cash flow was actually negative last year as well, so we could understand if shareholders were bothered by its outflow of US$279m. 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.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

Given the accrual ratio, it's not overly surprising that Gran Tierra Energy's profit was boosted by unusual items worth US$37m in the last twelve months. While we like to see profit increases, we tend to be a little more cautious when unusual items have made a big contribution. 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. Gran Tierra Energy had a rather significant contribution from unusual items relative to its profit to December 2019. 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 Gran Tierra Energy's Profit Performance

Summing up, Gran Tierra Energy received a nice boost to profit from unusual items, but could not match its paper profit with free cash flow. For the reasons mentioned above, we think that a perfunctory glance at Gran Tierra Energy's statutory profits might make it look better than it really is on an underlying level. With this in mind, we wouldn't consider investing in a stock unless we had a thorough understanding of the risks. For instance, we've identified 5 warning signs for Gran Tierra Energy (3 can't be ignored) you should be familiar with.

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. 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.

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.

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