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Here's Why We're Watching Wave Life Sciences's (NASDAQ:WVE) Cash Burn Situation

Simply Wall St

There's no doubt that money can be made by owning shares of unprofitable businesses. 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. Nonetheless, only a fool would ignore the risk that a loss making company burns through its cash too quickly.

Given this risk, we thought we'd take a look at whether Wave Life Sciences (NASDAQ:WVE) shareholders should 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'.

See our latest analysis for Wave Life Sciences

How Long Is Wave Life Sciences's 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 Wave Life Sciences last reported its balance sheet in September 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth US$209m. In the last year, its cash burn was US$166m. Therefore, from September 2019 it had roughly 15 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. Importantly, if we extrapolate recent cash burn trends, the cash runway would be noticeably longer. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

NasdaqGM:WVE Historical Debt, December 24th 2019

How Well Is Wave Life Sciences Growing?

One thing for shareholders to keep front in mind is that Wave Life Sciences increased its cash burn by 610% in the last twelve months. On the bright side, at least operating revenue was up 45% over the same period, giving some cause for hope. Considering both these factors, we're not particularly excited by its growth profile. Clearly, however, the crucial factor is whether the company will grow its business going forward. 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 Wave Life Sciences To Raise More Cash For Growth?

Wave Life Sciences 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. 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 looking at a company's cash burn relative to its market capitalisation, we gain insight on how much shareholders would be diluted if the company needed to raise enough cash to cover another year's cash burn.

Wave Life Sciences has a market capitalisation of US$539m and burnt through US$166m last year, which is 31% of the company's market value. That's fairly notable cash burn, so if the company had to sell shares to cover the cost of another year's operations, shareholders would suffer some costly dilution.

How Risky Is Wave Life Sciences's Cash Burn Situation?

Even though its increasing cash burn makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Wave Life Sciences's revenue growth was relatively promising. Summing up, we think the Wave Life Sciences's cash burn is a risk, based on the factors we mentioned in this article. Notably, our data indicates that Wave Life Sciences insiders have been trading the shares. You can discover if they are buyers or sellers by clicking on this link.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies insiders are buying, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)

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.