We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. 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 the harsh reality is that very many loss making companies burn through all their cash and go bankrupt.
So should Astrotech (NASDAQ:ASTC) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? In this article, we define cash burn as its annual (negative) free cash flow, which is the amount of money a company spends each year to fund its growth. First, we'll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.
When Might Astrotech Run Out Of Money?
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. As at June 2019, Astrotech had cash of US$1.6m and no debt. Importantly, its cash burn was US$8.5m over the trailing twelve months. That means it had a cash runway of around 2 months as of June 2019. It's extremely surprising to us that the company has allowed its cash runway to get that short! Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.
How Is Astrotech's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
In our view, Astrotech doesn't yet produce significant amounts of operating revenue, since it reported just US$127k in the last twelve months. As a result, we think it's a bit early to focus on the revenue growth, so we'll limit ourselves to looking at how the cash burn is changing over time. Given the length of the cash runway, we'd interpret the 22% reduction in cash burn, in twelve months, as prudent if not necessary for capital preservation. Admittedly, we're a bit cautious of Astrotech due to its lack of significant operating revenues. We prefer most of the stocks on this list of stocks that analysts expect to grow.
How Hard Would It Be For Astrotech To Raise More Cash For Growth?
While Astrotech is showing a solid reduction in its cash burn, it's still worth considering how easily it could raise more cash, even just to fuel faster growth. Generally speaking, a listed business can raise new cash through issuing shares or taking on debt. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash to fund 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.
In the last year, Astrotech burned through US$8.5m, which is just about equal to its US$8.5m market cap. Given just how high that expenditure is, relative to the company's market value, we think there's an elevated risk of funding distress, and we would be very nervous about holding the stock.
How Risky Is Astrotech's Cash Burn Situation?
As you can probably tell by now, we're rather concerned about Astrotech's cash burn. In particular, we think its cash runway suggests it isn't in a good position to keep funding growth. And although we accept its cash burn reduction wasn't as worrying as its cash runway, it was still a real negative; as indeed were all the factors we considered in this article. The measures we've considered in this article lead us to believe its cash burn is actually quite concerning, and its weak cash position seems likely to cost shareholders one way or another. While it's important to consider hard data like the metrics discussed above, many investors would also be interested to note that Astrotech insiders have been trading shares in the company. Click here to find out if they have been buying or selling.
Of course Astrotech 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.
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