Many investors consider it preferable to invest in profitable companies over unprofitable ones, because profitability suggests a business is sustainable. That said, the current statutory profit is not always a good guide to a company's underlying profitability. Today we'll focus on whether this year's statutory profits are a good guide to understanding Seagen (NASDAQ:SGEN).
It's good to see that over the last twelve months Seagen made a profit of US$472.4m on revenue of US$1.86b. At the risk of seeming quaint, we do like to at least examine profit, even when a stock is improving revenue and considered a 'growth stock'. 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.
Not all profits are equal, and we can learn more about the nature of a company's past profitability by diving deeper into the financial statements. Therefore, today we'll take a look at Seagen's cashflow, share issues and unusual items with a view to better understanding the nature of its statutory earnings. 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.
Examining Cashflow Against Seagen'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. In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company's average operating assets over that period. The ratio shows us how much a company's profit exceeds its FCF.
As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. That is not intended to imply we should worry about a positive accrual ratio, but it's worth noting where the accrual ratio is rather high. To quote a 2014 paper by Lewellen and Resutek, "firms with higher accruals tend to be less profitable in the future".
Seagen has an accrual ratio of -0.14 for the year to September 2020. That implies it has good cash conversion, and implies that its free cash flow solidly exceeded its profit last year. Indeed, in the last twelve months it reported free cash flow of US$571m, well over the US$472.4m it reported in profit. Notably, Seagen had negative free cash flow last year, so the US$571m it produced this year was a welcome improvement. However, that's not the end of the story. We can look at how unusual items in the profit and loss statement impacted its accrual ratio, as well as explore how dilution is impacting shareholders negatively.
In order to understand the potential for per share returns, it is essential to consider how much a company is diluting shareholders. In fact, Seagen increased the number of shares on issue by 5.2% over the last twelve months by issuing new shares. Therefore, each share now receives a smaller portion of profit. 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 Seagen's EPS by clicking here.
A Look At The Impact Of Seagen's Dilution on Its Earnings Per Share (EPS).
Seagen was losing money three years ago. Zooming in to the last year, we still can't talk about growth rates coherently, since it made a loss last year. But mathematics aside, it is always good to see when a formerly unprofitable business come good (though we accept profit would have been higher if dilution had not been required). So you can see that the dilution has had a bit of an impact on shareholders. Therefore, the dilution is having a noteworthy influence on shareholder returns. And so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is influencing shareholder earnings.
In the long term, if Seagen's earnings per share can increase, then the share price should too. 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.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
While the accrual ratio might bode well, we also note that Seagen's profit was boosted by unusual items worth US$74m in the last twelve months. While we like to see profit increases, we tend to be a little more cautious when unusual items have made a big contribution. We ran the numbers on most publicly listed companies worldwide, and it's very common for unusual items to be once-off in nature. And that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. 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 Seagen's Profit Performance
In conclusion, Seagen's accrual ratio suggests its earnings are well backed by cash but its boost from unusual items is probably not going to be repeated consistently. Meanwhile, the dilution was a negative for shareholders. Based on these factors, we think that Seagen's statutory profits probably make it seem better than it is on an underlying level. If you want to do dive deeper into Seagen, you'd also look into what risks it is currently facing. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Seagen you should be aware of.
In this article we've looked at a number of factors that can impair the utility of profit numbers, and we've come away cautious. 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. 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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