Companies Like Calithera Biosciences (NASDAQ:CALA) Are In A Position To Invest In Growth

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 13, 2020

Just because a business does not make any money, does not mean that the stock will go down. For example, biotech and mining exploration companies often lose money for years before finding success with a new treatment or mineral discovery. But while the successes are well known, investors should not ignore the very many unprofitable companies that simply burn through all their cash and collapse.

So, the natural question for Calithera Biosciences (NASDAQ:CALA) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of cash burn. In this article, we define cash burn as its annual (negative) free cash flow, which is the amount of money a company spends each year to fund its growth. We'll start by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves in order to calculate its cash runway.

Check out our latest analysis for Calithera Biosciences

How Long Is Calithera Biosciences' Cash Runway?

A company's cash runway is the amount of time it would take to burn through its cash reserves at its current cash burn rate. As at September 2020, Calithera Biosciences had cash of US$138m and no debt. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$80m. So it had a cash runway of approximately 21 months from September 2020. Notably, analysts forecast that Calithera Biosciences will break even (at a free cash flow level) in about 2 years. That means it doesn't have a great deal of breathing room, but it shouldn't really need more cash, considering that cash burn should be continually reducing. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

NasdaqGS:CALA Debt to Equity History December 13th 2020

How Is Calithera Biosciences' Cash Burn Changing Over Time?

Calithera Biosciences didn't record any revenue over the last year, indicating that it's an early stage company still developing its business. Nonetheless, we can still examine its cash burn trajectory as part of our assessment of its cash burn situation. With the cash burn rate up 7.3% in the last year, it seems that the company is ratcheting up investment in the business over time. However, the company's true cash runway will therefore be shorter than suggested above, if spending continues to increase. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.

Can Calithera Biosciences Raise More Cash Easily?

While its cash burn is only increasing slightly, Calithera Biosciences shareholders should still consider the potential need for further cash, down the track. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. Many companies end up issuing new shares to fund future growth. By comparing a company's annual cash burn to its total market capitalisation, we can estimate roughly how many shares it would have to issue in order to run the company for another year (at the same burn rate).

Calithera Biosciences' cash burn of US$80m is about 23% of its US$342m market capitalisation. That's not insignificant, and if the company had to sell enough shares to fund another year's growth at the current share price, you'd likely witness fairly costly dilution.

How Risky Is Calithera Biosciences' Cash Burn Situation?

On this analysis of Calithera Biosciences' cash burn, we think its cash runway was reassuring, while its cash burn relative to its market cap has us a bit worried. One real positive is that analysts are forecasting that the company will reach breakeven. While we're the kind of investors who are always a bit concerned about the risks involved with cash burning companies, the metrics we have discussed in this article leave us relatively comfortable about Calithera Biosciences' situation. Taking a deeper dive, we've spotted 4 warning signs for Calithera Biosciences you should be aware of, and 1 of them makes us a bit uncomfortable.

If you would prefer to check out another company with better fundamentals, then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt or this list of stocks which are all forecast to grow.

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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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