Investors were disappointed with BioNTech SE's (NASDAQ:BNTX) recent earnings release. We did some analysis and believe that they might be concerned about some weak underlying factors.
Examining Cashflow Against BioNTech'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. This ratio tells us how much of a company's profit is not backed by free cashflow.
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 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 March 2021, BioNTech had an accrual ratio of 1.76. As a general rule, that bodes poorly for future profitability. To wit, the company did not generate one whit of free cashflow in that time. In the last twelve months it actually had negative free cash flow, with an outflow of €376m despite its profit of €1.20b, mentioned above. Coming off the back of negative free cash flow last year, we imagine some shareholders might wonder if its cash burn of €376m, this year, indicates high risk. Having said that, there is more to consider. We must also consider the impact of unusual items on statutory profit (and thus the accrual ratio), as well as note the ramifications of the company issuing new shares.
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.
One essential aspect of assessing earnings quality is to look at how much a company is diluting shareholders. BioNTech expanded the number of shares on issue by 6.5% over the last year. As a result, its net income is now split between a greater number of shares. To talk about net income, without noticing earnings per share, is to be distracted by the big numbers while ignoring the smaller numbers that talk to per share value. You can see a chart of BioNTech's EPS by clicking here.
A Look At The Impact Of BioNTech's Dilution on Its Earnings Per Share (EPS).
Three years ago, BioNTech lost money. Zooming in to the last year, we still can't talk about growth rates coherently, since it made a loss last year. What we do know is that while it's great to see a profit over the last twelve months, that profit would have been better, on a per share basis, if the company hadn't needed to issue shares. And so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is influencing shareholder earnings.
If BioNTech's EPS can grow over time then that drastically improves the chances of the share price moving in the same direction. But on the other hand, we'd be far less excited to learn profit (but not EPS) was improving. For the ordinary retail shareholder, EPS is a great measure to check your hypothetical "share" of the company's profit.
The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit
The fact that the company had unusual items boosting profit by €311m, in the last year, probably goes some way to explain why its accrual ratio was so weak. We can't deny that higher profits generally leave us optimistic, but we'd prefer it if the profit were to be sustainable. We ran the numbers on most publicly listed companies worldwide, and it's very common for unusual items to be once-off in nature. Which is hardly surprising, given the name. Assuming those unusual items don't show up again in the current year, we'd thus expect profit to be weaker next year (in the absence of business growth, that is).
Our Take On BioNTech's Profit Performance
In conclusion, BioNTech's weak accrual ratio suggested its statutory earnings have been inflated by the unusual items. The dilution means the results are weaker when viewed from a per-share perspective. For all the reasons mentioned above, we think that, at a glance, BioNTech's statutory profits could be considered to be low quality, because they are likely to give investors an overly positive impression of the company. 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 4 warning signs we've spotted with BioNTech (including 2 which are a bit concerning).
Our examination of BioNTech has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. And, on that basis, we are somewhat skeptical. 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’re looking to trade BioNTech, open an account with the lowest-cost* platform trusted by professionals, Interactive Brokers. Their clients from over 200 countries and territories trade stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds worldwide from a single integrated account. Promoted
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.
*Interactive Brokers Rated Lowest Cost Broker by StockBrokers.com Annual Online Review 2020
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.