Are Arconic's (NYSE:ARNC) Statutory Earnings A Good Guide To Its Underlying Profitability?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 10, 2020

It might be old fashioned, but we really like to invest in companies that make a profit, each and every year. 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 Arconic (NYSE:ARNC).

It's good to see that over the last twelve months Arconic made a profit of US$171.0m on revenue of US$5.92b. Below, you can see that both its revenue and its profit have fallen over the last three years.

View our latest analysis for Arconic

NYSE:ARNC Earnings and Revenue History December 10th 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 reuslt, we think it's important to consider how unusual items and the recent tax benefit have influenced Arconic'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.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

To properly understand Arconic's profit results, we need to consider the US$41m expense attributed to unusual items. 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. Assuming those unusual expenses don't come up again, we'd therefore expect Arconic to produce a higher profit next year, all else being equal.

An Unusual Tax Situation

Just as we noted the unusual items, we must inform you that Arconic received a tax benefit which contributed US$89m to the bottom line. This is of course a bit out of the ordinary, given it is more common for companies to be paying tax than receiving tax benefits! The receipt of a tax benefit is obviously a good thing, on its own. However, our data indicates that tax benefits can temporarily boost statutory profit in the year it is booked, but subsequently profit may fall back. In the likely event the tax benefit is not repeated, we'd expect to see its statutory profit levels drop, at least in the absence of strong growth. So while we think it's great to receive a tax benefit, it does tend to imply an increased risk that the statutory profit overstates the sustainable earnings power of the business.

Our Take On Arconic's Profit Performance

In the last year Arconic 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 Arconic'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. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Arconic (including 1 which doesn't sit too well with us).

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. Some people consider a high return on equity to be a good sign of a quality business. 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.

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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. 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.
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