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We're Not Very Worried About C3.ai's (NYSE:AI) Cash Burn Rate

Even when a business is losing money, it's possible for shareholders to make money if they buy a good business at the right price. For example, although Amazon.com made losses for many years after listing, if you had bought and held the shares since 1999, you would have made a fortune. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?

So should C3.ai (NYSE:AI) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? In this report, we will consider the company's annual negative free cash flow, henceforth referring to it as the 'cash burn'. Let's start with an examination of the business' cash, relative to its cash burn.

Check out our latest analysis for C3.ai

Does C3.ai 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. When C3.ai last reported its balance sheet in January 2023, it had zero debt and cash worth US$772m. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$218m. That means it had a cash runway of about 3.5 years as of January 2023. A runway of this length affords the company the time and space it needs to develop the business. We should note, however, that if we extrapolate recent trends in its cash burn, then its cash runway would get a lot longer. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

debt-equity-history-analysis
debt-equity-history-analysis

How Well Is C3.ai Growing?

Notably, C3.ai actually ramped up its cash burn very hard and fast in the last year, by 102%, signifying heavy investment in the business. That does give us pause, and we can't take much solace in the operating revenue growth of 15% in the same time frame. 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. So you might want to take a peek at how much the company is expected to grow in the next few years.

Can C3.ai Raise More Cash Easily?

Even though it seems like C3.ai is developing its business nicely, we still like to consider how easily it could raise more money to accelerate growth. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash and fund growth. By looking at a company's cash burn relative to its market capitalisation, we gain insight on how much shareholders would be diluted if the company needed to raise enough cash to cover another year's cash burn.

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Since it has a market capitalisation of US$2.4b, C3.ai's US$218m in cash burn equates to about 9.0% of its market value. That's a low proportion, so we figure the company would be able to raise more cash to fund growth, with a little dilution, or even to simply borrow some money.

How Risky Is C3.ai's Cash Burn Situation?

Even though its increasing cash burn makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought C3.ai's cash runway was relatively promising. Based on the factors mentioned in this article, we think its cash burn situation warrants some attention from shareholders, but we don't think they should be worried. Separately, we looked at different risks affecting the company and spotted 3 warning signs for C3.ai (of which 1 is significant!) you should know about.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies insiders are buying, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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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