We're Interested To See How Vir Biotechnology (NASDAQ:VIR) Uses Its Cash Hoard To Grow

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 22, 2020

Even when a business is losing money, it's possible for shareholders to make money if they buy a good business at the right price. Indeed, Vir Biotechnology (NASDAQ:VIR) stock is up 147% in the last year, providing strong gains for shareholders. Nonetheless, only a fool would ignore the risk that a loss making company burns through its cash too quickly.

Given its strong share price performance, we think it's worthwhile for Vir Biotechnology shareholders to consider whether its cash burn is concerning. In this report, we will consider the company's annual negative free cash flow, henceforth referring to it as the 'cash burn'. First, we'll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.

See our latest analysis for Vir Biotechnology

Does Vir Biotechnology Have A Long Cash Runway?

A cash runway is defined as the length of time it would take a company to run out of money if it kept spending at its current rate of cash burn. In September 2020, Vir Biotechnology had US$827m in cash, and was debt-free. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$153m. So it had a cash runway of about 5.4 years from September 2020. While this is only one measure of its cash burn situation, it certainly gives us the impression that holders have nothing to worry about. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

NasdaqGS:VIR Debt to Equity History December 22nd 2020

How Well Is Vir Biotechnology Growing?

Some investors might find it troubling that Vir Biotechnology is actually increasing its cash burn, which is up 18% in the last year. Given that it boosted operating revenue by a stand-out 639% in the same period, we think management are simply more focussed on growth than preserving cash. It may well be that it has some excellent opportunities to invest in growth. We think it is growing rather well, upon reflection. 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.

How Easily Can Vir Biotechnology Raise Cash?

We are certainly impressed with the progress Vir Biotechnology has made over the last year, but it is also worth considering how costly it would be if it wanted to raise more cash to fund faster growth. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash and fund 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).

Vir Biotechnology's cash burn of US$153m is about 3.9% of its US$3.9b market capitalisation. Given that is a rather small percentage, it would probably be really easy for the company to fund another year's growth by issuing some new shares to investors, or even by taking out a loan.

How Risky Is Vir Biotechnology's Cash Burn Situation?

It may already be apparent to you that we're relatively comfortable with the way Vir Biotechnology is burning through its cash. For example, we think its revenue growth suggests that the company is on a good path. Although its increasing cash burn does give us reason for pause, the other metrics we discussed in this article form a positive picture overall. After taking into account the various metrics mentioned in this report, we're pretty comfortable with how the company is spending its cash, as it seems on track to meet its needs over the medium term. On another note, we conducted an in-depth investigation of the company, and identified 4 warning signs for Vir Biotechnology (1 is concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies insiders are buying, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)

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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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