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. This article will consider whether Luna Innovations' (NASDAQ:LUNA) statutory profits are a good guide to its underlying earnings.
It's good to see that over the last twelve months Luna Innovations made a profit of US$6.94m on revenue of US$76.2m. The chart below shows that revenue has improved over the last three years, and, even better, the company has moved from unprofitable to profitable.
Importantly, statutory profits are not always the best tool for understanding a company's true earnings power, so it's well worth examining profits in a little more detail. This article, will discuss how unusual items and a tax benefit have impacted Luna Innovations' most recent bottom line results. 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.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
For anyone who wants to understand Luna Innovations' profit beyond the statutory numbers, it's important to note that during the last twelve months statutory profit was reduced by US$1.6m due to unusual items. It's never great to see unusual items costing the company profits, but on the upside, things might improve sooner rather than later. 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. If Luna Innovations doesn't see those unusual expenses repeat, then all else being equal we'd expect its profit to increase over the coming year.
An Unusual Tax Situation
Just as we noted the unusual items, we must inform you that Luna Innovations received a tax benefit which contributed US$618k to the bottom line. It's always a bit noteworthy when a company is paid by the tax man, rather than paying the tax man. The receipt of a tax benefit is obviously a good thing, on its own. However, the devil in the detail is that these kind of benefits only impact in the year they are booked, and are often one-off in nature. Assuming the tax benefit is not repeated every year, we could see its profitability drop noticeably, all else being equal.
Our Take On Luna Innovations' Profit Performance
In the last year Luna Innovations received a tax benefit, which boosted its profit in a way that might not be much more sustainable than turning prime farmland into gas fields. Having said that, it also had a unusual item reducing its profit. Given the contrasting considerations, we don't have a strong view as to whether Luna Innovations's profits are an apt reflection of its underlying potential for profit. So while earnings quality is important, it's equally important to consider the risks facing Luna Innovations at this point in time. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 2 warning signs with Luna Innovations, and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
Our examination of Luna Innovations has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. But there is always more to discover if you are capable of focussing your mind on minutiae. 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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