The subdued market reaction suggests that The Vita Coco Company, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:COCO) recent earnings didn't contain any surprises. We think that investors are worried about some weaknesses underlying the earnings.
Zooming In On Vita Coco Company's Earnings
As finance nerds would already know, the accrual ratio from cashflow is a key measure for assessing how well a company's free cash flow (FCF) matches its profit. 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. 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".
Over the twelve months to December 2021, Vita Coco Company recorded an accrual ratio of 0.48. Statistically speaking, that's a real negative for future earnings. And indeed, during the period the company didn't produce any free cash flow whatsoever. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of US$17m, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of US$19.0m. We saw that FCF was US$33m a year ago though, so Vita Coco Company has at least been able to generate positive FCF in the past. Having said that, there is more to the story. We can see that unusual items have impacted its statutory profit, and therefore the accrual ratio. The good news for shareholders is that Vita Coco Company's 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.
The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit
Vita Coco Company's profit suffered from unusual items, which reduced profit by US$4.1m in the last twelve months. If this was a non-cash charge, it would have made the accrual ratio better, if cashflow had stayed strong, so it's not great to see in combination with an uninspiring accrual ratio. While deductions due to unusual items are disappointing in the first instance, there is a silver lining. We looked at thousands of listed companies and found that unusual items are very often one-off in nature. And, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. If Vita Coco Company doesn't see those unusual expenses repeat, then all else being equal we'd expect its profit to increase over the coming year.
Our Take On Vita Coco Company's Profit Performance
Vita Coco Company saw unusual items weigh on its profit, which should have made it easier to show high cash conversion, which it did not do, according to its accrual ratio. Based on these factors, we think it's very unlikely that Vita Coco Company's statutory profits make it seem much weaker than it is. So while earnings quality is important, it's equally important to consider the risks facing Vita Coco Company at this point in time. Be aware that Vita Coco Company is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis and 1 of those is potentially serious...
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 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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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.