We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. For example, biotech and mining exploration companies often lose money for years before finding success with a new treatment or mineral discovery. But while the successes are well known, investors should not ignore the very many unprofitable companies that simply burn through all their cash and collapse.
So, the natural question for Aehr Test Systems (NASDAQ:AEHR) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of cash burn. 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). We'll start by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves in order to calculate its cash runway.
How Long Is Aehr Test Systems's Cash Runway?
A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. As at August 2019, Aehr Test Systems had cash of US$5.3m and no debt. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$5.0m. That means it had a cash runway of around 13 months as of August 2019. That's not too bad, but it's fair to say the end of the cash runway is in sight, unless cash burn reduces drastically. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.
Is Aehr Test Systems's Revenue Growing?
Given that Aehr Test Systems actually had positive free cash flow last year, before burning cash this year, we'll focus on its operating revenue to get a measure of the business trajectory. Unfortunately, the last year has been a disappointment, with operating revenue dropping 20% during the period. 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.
How Hard Would It Be For Aehr Test Systems To Raise More Cash For Growth?
Since its revenue growth is moving in the wrong direction, Aehr Test Systems shareholders may wish to think ahead to when the company may need to raise more cash. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash to fund 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).
Aehr Test Systems's cash burn of US$5.0m is about 12% of its US$41m market capitalisation. As a result, we'd venture that the company could raise more cash for growth without much trouble, albeit at the cost of some dilution.
So, Should We Worry About Aehr Test Systems's Cash Burn?
Even though its falling revenue makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Aehr Test Systems's cash burn relative to its market cap was relatively promising. We don't think its cash burn is particularly problematic, but after considering the range of factors in this article, we do think shareholders should be monitoring how it changes over time. While we always like to monitor cash burn for early stage companies, qualitative factors such as the CEO pay can also shed light on the situation. Click here to see free what the Aehr Test Systems CEO is paid..
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