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Here's Why We're Watching Chimerix's (NASDAQ:CMRX) Cash Burn Situation

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, 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 should Chimerix (NASDAQ:CMRX) shareholders be worried about its 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'.

Check out our latest analysis for Chimerix

How Long Is Chimerix's Cash Runway?

A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. When Chimerix last reported its balance sheet in September 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth US$117m. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$80m. Therefore, from September 2019 it had roughly 17 months of cash runway. While that cash runway isn't too concerning, sensible holders would be peering into the distance, and considering what happens if the company runs out of cash. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.

NasdaqGM:CMRX Historical Debt, December 23rd 2019

How Well Is Chimerix Growing?

Some investors might find it troubling that Chimerix is actually increasing its cash burn, which is up 39% in the last year. On a more positive note, the operating revenue improved by 153% over the period, offering an indication that the expenditure may well be worthwhile. If revenue is maintained once spending on growth decreases, that could well pay off! We think it is growing rather well, upon reflection. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.

How Easily Can Chimerix Raise Cash?

Chimerix seems to be in a fairly good position, in terms of cash burn, but we still think it's worthwhile considering how easily it could raise more money if it wanted to. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. Commonly, a business will sell new shares in itself to raise cash to drive 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).

Since it has a market capitalisation of US$134m, Chimerix's US$80m in cash burn equates to about 60% of its market value. From this perspective, it seems that the company spent a huge amount relative to its market value, and we'd be very wary of a painful capital raising.

Is Chimerix's Cash Burn A Worry?

Even though its cash burn relative to its market cap makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Chimerix's revenue growth was relatively promising. Summing up, we think the Chimerix's cash burn is a risk, based on the factors we mentioned in this article. While it's important to consider hard data like the metrics discussed above, many investors would also be interested to note that Chimerix insiders have been trading shares in the company. Click here to find out if they have been buying or selling.

Of course Chimerix 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.

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.