Frontier Communications Parent, Inc. (NASDAQ:FYBR) posted some decent earnings, but shareholders didn't react strongly. Our analysis has found some concerning factors which weaken the profit's foundation.
Zooming In On Frontier Communications Parent'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). In plain english, this ratio subtracts FCF from net profit, and divides that number by the company's average operating assets over that period. You could think of the accrual ratio from cashflow as the 'non-FCF profit ratio'.
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. That's because some academic studies have suggested that high accruals ratios tend to lead to lower profit or less profit growth.
Over the twelve months to June 2021, Frontier Communications Parent recorded an accrual ratio of 0.54. Statistically speaking, that's a real negative for future earnings. To wit, the company did not generate one whit of free cashflow in that time. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of US$674m, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of US$4.61b. We saw that FCF was US$444m a year ago though, so Frontier Communications Parent has at least been able to generate positive FCF in the past. However, that's not the end of the story. We must also consider the impact of unusual items on statutory profit (and thus the accrual ratio), as well as note the ramifications of the company issuing new shares. The good news for shareholders is that Frontier Communications Parent's accrual ratio was much better last year, so this year's poor reading might simply be a case of a short term mismatch between profit and FCF. Shareholders should look for improved cashflow relative to profit in the current year, if that is indeed the case.
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.
One essential aspect of assessing earnings quality is to look at how much a company is diluting shareholders. Frontier Communications Parent expanded the number of shares on issue by 133% over the last year. As a result, its net income is now split between a greater number of shares. To celebrate net income while ignoring dilution is like rejoicing because you have a single slice of a larger pizza, but ignoring the fact that the pizza is now cut into many more slices. You can see a chart of Frontier Communications Parent's EPS by clicking here.
A Look At The Impact Of Frontier Communications Parent's Dilution on Its Earnings Per Share (EPS).
Frontier Communications Parent 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. What we do know is that while it's great to see a profit over the last twelve months, that profit would have been better, on a per share basis, if the company hadn't needed to issue shares. And so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is having a rather significant impact on shareholders.
If Frontier Communications Parent's EPS can grow over time then that drastically improves the chances of the share price moving in the same direction. However, if its profit increases while its earnings per share stay flat (or even fall) then shareholders might not see much benefit. For that reason, you could say that EPS is more important that net income in the long run, assuming the goal is to assess whether a company's share price might grow.
The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit
Given the accrual ratio, it's not overly surprising that Frontier Communications Parent's profit was boosted by unusual items worth US$3.8b in the last twelve months. While it's always nice to have higher profit, a large contribution from unusual items sometimes dampens our enthusiasm. 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'. We can see that Frontier Communications Parent's positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to June 2021. As a result, we can surmise that the unusual items are making its statutory profit significantly stronger than it would otherwise be.
Our Take On Frontier Communications Parent's Profit Performance
In conclusion, Frontier Communications Parent's weak accrual ratio suggested its statutory earnings have been inflated by the unusual items. The dilution means the results are weaker when viewed from a per-share perspective. On reflection, the above-mentioned factors give us the strong impression that Frontier Communications Parent'sunderlying earnings power is not as good as it might seem, based on the statutory profit numbers. In light of this, if you'd like to do more analysis on the company, it's vital to be informed of the risks involved. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for Frontier Communications Parent you should be aware of.
Our examination of Frontier Communications Parent has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. And, on that basis, we are somewhat skeptical. 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. 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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