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We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. By way of example, African Energy Resources (ASX:AFR) has seen its share price rise 105% over the last year, delighting many shareholders. But the harsh reality is that very many loss making companies burn through all their cash and go bankrupt.
In light of its strong share price run, we think now is a good time to investigate how risky African Energy Resources' cash burn is. For the purpose of this article, we'll define cash burn as the amount of cash the company is spending each year to fund its growth (also called its negative free cash flow). The first step is to compare its cash burn with its cash reserves, to give us its 'cash runway'.
When Might African Energy Resources Run Out Of Money?
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. As at December 2020, African Energy Resources had cash of US$3.7m and no debt. Importantly, its cash burn was US$560k over the trailing twelve months. Therefore, from December 2020 it had 6.5 years of cash runway. Even though this is but one measure of the company's cash burn, the thought of such a long cash runway warms our bellies in a comforting way. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.
How Is African Energy Resources' Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
African Energy Resources didn't record any revenue over the last year, indicating that it's an early stage company still developing its business. Nonetheless, we can still examine its cash burn trajectory as part of our assessment of its cash burn situation. With the cash burn rate up 13% in the last year, it seems that the company is ratcheting up investment in the business over time. However, the company's true cash runway will therefore be shorter than suggested above, if spending continues to increase. Admittedly, we're a bit cautious of African Energy Resources due to its lack of significant operating revenues. So we'd generally prefer stocks from this list of stocks that have analysts forecasting growth.
Can African Energy Resources Raise More Cash Easily?
While African Energy Resources does have a solid cash runway, its cash burn trajectory may have some shareholders thinking ahead to when the company may need to raise more cash. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. Commonly, a business will sell new shares in itself to raise cash and drive 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).
Since it has a market capitalisation of US$21m, African Energy Resources' US$560k in cash burn equates to about 2.7% of its market value. That means it could easily issue a few shares to fund more growth, and might well be in a position to borrow cheaply.
Is African Energy Resources' Cash Burn A Worry?
As you can probably tell by now, we're not too worried about African Energy Resources' cash burn. In particular, we think its cash runway stands out as evidence that the company is well on top of its spending. Although its increasing cash burn does give us reason for pause, the other metrics we discussed in this article form a positive picture overall. Looking at all the measures in this article, together, we're not worried about its rate of cash burn, which seems to be under control. On another note, we conducted an in-depth investigation of the company, and identified 5 warning signs for African Energy Resources (2 make us uncomfortable!) 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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