There's no doubt that money can be made by owning shares of unprofitable businesses. For example, although software-as-a-service business Salesforce.com lost money for years while it grew recurring revenue, if you held shares since 2005, you'd have done very well indeed. 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 should Zymeworks (NYSE:ZYME) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? For the purposes of this article, cash burn is the annual rate at which an unprofitable company spends cash to fund its growth; its negative free cash flow. The first step is to compare its cash burn with its cash reserves, to give us its 'cash runway'.
Does Zymeworks Have A Long Cash Runway?
You can calculate a company's cash runway by dividing the amount of cash it has by the rate at which it is spending that cash. As at September 2021, Zymeworks had cash of US$308m and no debt. In the last year, its cash burn was US$199m. So it had a cash runway of approximately 19 months from September 2021. Notably, however, analysts think that Zymeworks will break even (at a free cash flow level) before then. If that happens, then the length of its cash runway, today, would become a moot point. You can see how its cash balance has changed over time in the image below.
How Well Is Zymeworks Growing?
At first glance it's a bit worrying to see that Zymeworks actually boosted its cash burn by 35%, year on year. And we must say we find it concerning that operating revenue dropped 11% over the same period. Considering both these metrics, we're a little concerned about how the company is developing. Clearly, however, the crucial factor is whether the company will grow its business going forward. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.
How Hard Would It Be For Zymeworks To Raise More Cash For Growth?
Even though it seems like Zymeworks is developing its business nicely, we still like to consider how easily it could raise more money to accelerate growth. 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).
Zymeworks' cash burn of US$199m is about 21% of its US$926m 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 Zymeworks' Cash Burn Situation?
It may already be apparent to you that we're relatively comfortable with the way Zymeworks is burning through its cash. In particular, we think its cash runway stands out as evidence that the company is well on top of its spending. While its increasing cash burn wasn't great, the other factors mentioned in this article more than make up for weakness on that measure. There's no doubt that shareholders can take a lot of heart from the fact that analysts are forecasting it will reach breakeven before too long. 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 3 warning signs for Zymeworks (1 doesn't sit too well with us!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
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.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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