Statistically speaking, it is less risky to invest in profitable companies than in unprofitable ones. 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. Today we'll focus on whether this year's statutory profits are a good guide to understanding Cheniere Energy (NYSEMKT:LNG).
We like the fact that Cheniere Energy made a profit of US$1.05b on its revenue of US$9.25b, in the last year. 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.
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. As a reuslt, we think it's important to consider how unusual items and the recent tax benefit have influenced Cheniere Energy's 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.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
Importantly, our data indicates that Cheniere Energy's profit was reduced by US$374m, due to unusual items, over the last year. While deductions due to unusual items are disappointing in the first instance, there is a silver lining. When we analysed the vast majority of listed companies worldwide, we found that significant unusual items are often not repeated. And, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. If Cheniere Energy doesn't see those unusual expenses repeat, then all else being equal we'd expect its profit to increase over the coming year.
An Unusual Tax Situation
Just as we noted the unusual items, we must inform you that Cheniere Energy received a tax benefit which contributed US$398m to the bottom line. This is meaningful because companies usually pay tax rather than receive tax benefits. The receipt of a tax benefit is obviously a good thing, on its own. And since it previously lost money, it may well simply indicate the realisation of past tax losses. However, our data indicates that tax benefits can temporarily boost statutory profit in the year it is booked, but subsequently profit may fall back. Assuming the tax benefit is not repeated every year, we could see its profitability drop noticeably, all else being equal. While we think it's good that the company has booked a tax benefit, it does mean that there's every chance the statutory profit will come in a lot higher than it would be if the income was adjusted for one-off factors.
Our Take On Cheniere Energy's Profit Performance
In the last year Cheniere Energy received a tax benefit, which boosted its profit in a way that might not be much more sustainable than turning prime farmland into gas fields. But on the other hand, it also saw an unusual item depress its profit. Given the contrasting considerations, we don't have a strong view as to whether Cheniere Energy's profits are an apt reflection of its underlying potential for profit. In light of this, if you'd like to do more analysis on the company, it's vital to be informed of the risks involved. For example, Cheniere Energy has 4 warning signs (and 1 which can't be ignored) we think you should know about.
In this article we've looked at a number of factors that can impair the utility of profit numbers, as a guide to a business. 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.
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