There's no doubt that money can be made by owning shares of unprofitable businesses. Indeed, Provention Bio (NASDAQ:PRVB) stock is up 121% in the last year, providing strong gains for shareholders. Having said that, unprofitable companies are risky because they could potentially burn through all their cash and become distressed.
So notwithstanding the buoyant share price, we think it's well worth asking whether Provention Bio's cash burn is too risky For the purpose of this article, we'll define cash burn as the amount of cash the company is spending each year to fund its growth (also called its negative free cash flow). Let's start with an examination of the business's cash, relative to its cash burn.
When Might Provention Bio Run Out Of Money?
A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. When Provention Bio last reported its balance sheet in June 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth US$41m. In the last year, its cash burn was US$29m. That means it had a cash runway of around 17 months as of June 2019. That's not too bad, but it's fair to say the end of the cash runway is in sight, unless cash burn reduces drastically. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.
How Is Provention Bio's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Because Provention Bio isn't currently generating revenue, we consider it an early-stage business. So while we can't look to sales to understand growth, we can look at how the cash burn is changing to understand how expenditure is trending over time. Over the last year its cash burn actually increased by a very significant 91%. Oftentimes, increased cash burn simply means a company is accelerating its business development, but one should always be mindful that this causes the cash runway to shrink. 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 Provention Bio To Raise More Cash For Growth?
While Provention Bio does have a solid cash runway, its cash burn trajectory may have some shareholders thinking ahead to when the company may need to raise more cash. 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. 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.
Provention Bio has a market capitalisation of US$320m and burnt through US$29m last year, which is 9.0% of the company's market value. 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.
Is Provention Bio's Cash Burn A Worry?
Even though its increasing cash burn makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Provention Bio's cash burn relative to its market cap was relatively promising. Cash burning companies are always on the riskier side of things, but after considering all of the factors discussed in this short piece, we're not too worried about its rate of cash burn. While it's important to consider hard data like the metrics discussed above, many investors would also be interested to note that Provention Bio insiders have been trading shares in the company. Click here to find out if they have been buying or selling.
Of course Provention Bio 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.
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