Statistically speaking, it is less risky to invest in profitable companies than in unprofitable ones. However, sometimes companies receive a one-off boost (or reduction) to their profit, and it's not always clear whether statutory profits are a good guide, going forward. In this article, we'll look at how useful this year's statutory profit is, when analysing Open Text (NASDAQ:OTEX).
It's good to see that over the last twelve months Open Text made a profit of US$90.3m on revenue of US$3.30b. The chart below shows how it has grown revenue over the last three years, but that profit has declined.
Of course, it is only sensible to look beyond the statutory profits and question how well those numbers represent the sustainable earnings power of the business. Therefore, we think it's worth taking a closer look at Open Text's cashflow, as well as examining the impact that unusual items have had on its reported profit. 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 Open Text'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). The accrual ratio subtracts the FCF from the profit for a given period, and divides the result by the average operating assets of the company over that time. 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. 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. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.
Over the twelve months to December 2020, Open Text recorded an accrual ratio of -0.15. Therefore, its statutory earnings were very significantly less than its free cashflow. Indeed, in the last twelve months it reported free cash flow of US$1.1b, well over the US$90.3m it reported in profit. Open Text shareholders are no doubt pleased that free cash flow improved over the last twelve months. Having said that, there is more to the story. The accrual ratio is reflecting the impact of unusual items on statutory profit, at least in part.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
Open Text's profit was reduced by unusual items worth US$99m in the last twelve months, and this helped it produce high cash conversion, as reflected by its unusual items. In a scenario where those unusual items included non-cash charges, we'd expect to see a strong accrual ratio, which is exactly what has happened in this case. While deductions due to unusual items are disappointing in the first instance, there is a silver lining. We looked at thousands of listed companies and found that unusual items are very often one-off in nature. And, after all, that's exactly what the accounting terminology implies. Assuming those unusual expenses don't come up again, we'd therefore expect Open Text to produce a higher profit next year, all else being equal.
Our Take On Open Text's Profit Performance
Considering both Open Text's accrual ratio and its unusual items, we think its statutory earnings are unlikely to exaggerate the company's underlying earnings power. Based on these factors, we think Open Text's earnings potential is at least as good as it seems, and maybe even better! So if you'd like to dive deeper into this stock, it's crucial to consider any risks it's facing. At Simply Wall St, we found 3 warning signs for Open Text and we think they deserve your attention.
After our examination into the nature of Open Text's profit, we've come away optimistic for the company. 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.
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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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