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Here's Why We're Not Too Worried About Vir Biotechnology's (NASDAQ:VIR) Cash Burn Situation

Simply Wall St

Just because a business does not make any money, does not mean that the stock will go down. 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 Vir Biotechnology (NASDAQ:VIR) 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. Let's start with an examination of the business's cash, relative to its cash burn.

Check out our latest analysis for Vir Biotechnology

When Might Vir Biotechnology Run Out Of Money?

A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. In September 2019, Vir Biotechnology had US$320m in cash, and was debt-free. In the last year, its cash burn was US$130m. That means it had a cash runway of about 2.5 years as of September 2019. 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.

NasdaqGS:VIR Historical Debt, January 14th 2020

How Well Is Vir Biotechnology Growing?

At first glance it's a bit worrying to see that Vir Biotechnology actually boosted its cash burn by 39%, year on year. And we must say we find it concerning that operating revenue dropped 4.0% over the same period. Taken together, we think these growth metrics are a little worrying. 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 Vir Biotechnology Raise More Cash Easily?

While Vir Biotechnology 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. 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).

Vir Biotechnology's cash burn of US$130m is about 9.0% of its US$1.4b market capitalisation. 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 Vir Biotechnology's Cash Burn Situation?

Even though its increasing cash burn makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Vir Biotechnology's cash runway was relatively promising. While we're the kind of investors who are always a bit concerned about the risks involved with cash burning companies, the metrics we have discussed in this article leave us relatively comfortable about Vir Biotechnology's situation. 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 Vir Biotechnology CEO is paid..

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.