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Alector (NASDAQ:ALEC) Is In A Good Position To Deliver On Growth Plans

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There's no doubt that money can be made by owning shares of unprofitable businesses. For example, biotech and mining exploration companies often lose money for years before finding success with a new treatment or mineral discovery. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?

So, the natural question for Alector (NASDAQ:ALEC) 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.

See our latest analysis for Alector

When Might Alector 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, Alector had cash of US$413m and no debt. In the last year, its cash burn was US$172m. So it had a cash runway of about 2.4 years from December 2020. Arguably, that's a prudent and sensible length of runway to have. 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 Alector Growing?

At first glance it's a bit worrying to see that Alector actually boosted its cash burn by 50%, year on year. To be fair, given that fact it's hardly inspiring to see that the operating revenue was flat year on year. Considering both these metrics, we're a little concerned about how the company is developing. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. So you might want to take a peek at how much the company is expected to grow in the next few years.

Can Alector Raise More Cash Easily?

While Alector seems to be in a fairly good position, it's still worth considering how easily it could raise more cash, even just to fuel faster growth. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. Many companies end up issuing new shares to fund future growth. We can compare a company's cash burn to its market capitalisation to get a sense for how many new shares a company would have to issue to fund one year's operations.

Since it has a market capitalisation of US$1.5b, Alector's US$172m in cash burn equates to about 11% of its market value. Given that situation, it's fair to say the company wouldn't have much trouble raising more cash for growth, but shareholders would be somewhat diluted.

So, Should We Worry About Alector's Cash Burn?

On this analysis of Alector's cash burn, we think its cash runway was reassuring, while its increasing cash burn has us a bit worried. Cash burning companies are always on the riskier side of things, but after considering all of the factors discussed in this short piece, we're not too worried about its rate of cash burn. Readers need to have a sound understanding of business risks before investing in a stock, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Alector that potential shareholders should take into account before putting money into a stock.

Of course Alector may not be the best stock to buy. 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.

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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