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Is Otto Energy (ASX:OEL) In A Good Position To Deliver On Growth Plans?

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 Amazon.com made losses for many years after listing, if you had bought and held the shares since 1999, you would have made a fortune. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?

Given this risk, we thought we'd take a look at whether Otto Energy (ASX:OEL) 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. Let's start with an examination of the business's cash, relative to its cash burn.

See our latest analysis for Otto Energy

Does Otto Energy Have A Long Cash Runway?

A cash runway is defined as the length of time it would take a company to run out of money if it kept spending at its current rate of cash burn. In June 2019, Otto Energy had US$7.4m in cash, and was debt-free. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$22m. Therefore, from June 2019 it had roughly 4 months of cash runway. Notably, one analyst forecasts that Otto Energy will break even (at a free cash flow level) in about 16 months. Essentially, that means the company will either reduce its cash burn, or else require more cash. You can see how its cash balance has changed over time in the image below.

ASX:OEL Historical Debt, January 24th 2020

How Well Is Otto Energy Growing?

On balance, we think it's mildly positive that Otto Energy trimmed its cash burn by 2.9% over the last twelve months. But the operating revenue growth of 227% was even better. 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. 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 Otto Energy To Raise More Cash For Growth?

Given Otto Energy's revenue is receding, there's a considerable chance it will eventually need to raise more money to spend on driving growth. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash to fund growth. We can compare a company's cash burn to its market capitalisation to get a sense for how many new shares a company would have to issue to fund one year's operations.

Otto Energy's cash burn of US$22m is about 41% of its US$54m market capitalisation. 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.

So, Should We Worry About Otto Energy's Cash Burn?

On this analysis of Otto Energy's cash burn, we think its revenue growth was reassuring, while its cash runway has us a bit worried. There's no doubt that shareholders can take a lot of heart from the fact that at least one analyst is forecasting it will reach breakeven before too long. 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. Notably, our data indicates that Otto Energy insiders have been trading the shares. You can discover if they are buyers or sellers by clicking on this link.

Of course Otto Energy 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.