As an investor, mistakes are inevitable. But really bad investments should be rare. So take a moment to sympathize with the long term shareholders of Forward Pharma A/S (NASDAQ:FWP), who have seen the share price tank a massive 95% over a three year period. That would certainly shake our confidence in the decision to own the stock. The more recent news is of little comfort, with the share price down 68% in a year. Furthermore, it's down 32% in about a quarter. That's not much fun for holders.
We really feel for shareholders in this scenario. It's a good reminder of the importance of diversification, and it's worth keeping in mind there's more to life than money, anyway.
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Forward Pharma didn't have any revenue in the last year, so it's fair to say it doesn't yet have a proven product (or at least not one people are paying for). You have to wonder why venture capitalists aren't funding it. So it seems shareholders are too busy dreaming about the progress to come than dwelling on the current (lack of) revenue. For example, they may be hoping that Forward Pharma comes up with a great new treatment, before it runs out of money.
As a general rule, if a company doesn't have much revenue, and it loses money, then it is a high risk investment. There is usually a significant chance that they will need more money for business development, putting them at the mercy of capital markets. So the share price itself impacts the value of the shares (as it determines the cost of capital). While some companies like this go on to deliver on their plan, making good money for shareholders, many end in painful losses and eventual de-listing. Some Forward Pharma investors have already had a taste of the bitterness stocks like this can leave in the mouth.
Forward Pharma has plenty of cash in the bank, with cash in excess of all liabilities sitting at US$81m, when it last reported (December 2018). This gives management the flexibility to drive business growth, without worrying too much about cash reserves. But since the share price has dropped 64% per year, over 3 years, it seems like the market might have been over-excited previously. You can see in the image below, how Forward Pharma's cash levels have changed over time (click to see the values).
It can be extremely risky to invest in a company that doesn't even have revenue. There's no way to know its value easily. Would it bother you if insiders were selling the stock? I'd like that just about as much as I like to drink milk and fruit juice mixed together. It only takes a moment for you to check whether we have identified any insider sales recently.
What about the Total Shareholder Return (TSR)?
We've already covered Forward Pharma's share price action, but we should also mention its total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. Forward Pharma hasn't been paying dividends, but its TSR of -74% exceeds its share price return of -95%, implying it has either spun-off a business, or raised capital at a discount; thereby providing additional value to shareholders.
A Different Perspective
The last twelve months weren't great for Forward Pharma shares, which cost holders 68%, while the market was up about 3.8%. Of course the long term matters more than the short term, and even great stocks will sometimes have a poor year. Shareholders have lost 36% per year over the last three years, so the share price drop has become steeper, over the last year; a potential symptom of as yet unsolved challenges. Although Warren Buffett famously said he likes to 'buy when there is blood on the streets', he also focusses on high quality stocks with solid prospects. Shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.
If you would prefer to check out another company -- one with potentially superior financials -- then do not miss this free list of companies that have proven they can grow earnings.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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. Thank you for reading.