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Will Cara Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CARA) Spend Its Cash Wisely?

Simply Wall St

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 software-as-a-service business Salesforce.com lost money for years while it grew recurring revenue, if you held shares since 2005, you'd have done very well indeed. Having said that, unprofitable companies are risky because they could potentially burn through all their cash and become distressed.

So, the natural question for Cara Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CARA) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of cash burn. For the purposes of this article, cash burn is the annual rate at which an unprofitable company spends cash to fund its growth; its negative free cash flow. The first step is to compare its cash burn with its cash reserves, to give us its 'cash runway'.

View our latest analysis for Cara Therapeutics

Does Cara Therapeutics 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 Cara Therapeutics last reported its balance sheet in December 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth US$155m. In the last year, its cash burn was US$109m. That means it had a cash runway of around 17 months as of December 2019. Notably, analysts forecast that Cara Therapeutics will break even (at a free cash flow level) in about 4 years. That means unless the company reduces its cash burn quickly, it may well look to raise more cash. You can see how its cash balance has changed over time in the image below.

NasdaqGM:CARA Historical Debt April 29th 2020

How Well Is Cara Therapeutics Growing?

It was quite stunning to see that Cara Therapeutics increased its cash burn by 388% over the last year. On the bright side, at least operating revenue was up 48% over the same period, giving some cause for hope. Considering both these factors, we're not particularly excited by its growth profile. 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.

How Hard Would It Be For Cara Therapeutics To Raise More Cash For Growth?

Even though it seems like Cara Therapeutics is developing its business nicely, we still like to consider how easily it could raise more money to accelerate 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. 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).

Cara Therapeutics has a market capitalisation of US$728m and burnt through US$109m last year, which is 15% of the company's 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 Cara Therapeutics's Cash Burn?

Even though its increasing cash burn makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Cara Therapeutics's revenue growth was relatively promising. One real positive is that analysts are forecasting that the company will reach breakeven. Even though we don't think it has a problem with its cash burn, the analysis we've done in this article does suggest that shareholders should give some careful thought to the potential cost of raising more money in the future. Taking an in-depth view of risks, we've identified 3 warning signs for Cara Therapeutics that you should be aware of before investing.

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.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.