U.S. Markets close in 1 hr 1 min

Can Synlogic (NASDAQ:SYBX) Afford To Invest In Growth?

Simply Wall St

We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. 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. Having said that, unprofitable companies are risky because they could potentially burn through all their cash and become distressed.

Given this risk, we thought we'd take a look at whether Synlogic (NASDAQ:SYBX) shareholders should be worried about its cash burn. In this report, we will consider the company's annual negative free cash flow, henceforth referring to it as the 'cash burn'. 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 Synlogic

When Might Synlogic Run Out Of Money?

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 September 2019, Synlogic had US$120m in cash, and was debt-free. Importantly, its cash burn was US$75m over the trailing twelve months. Therefore, from September 2019 it had roughly 19 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:SYBX Historical Debt, November 14th 2019

How Well Is Synlogic Growing?

Synlogic actually ramped up its cash burn by a whopping 61% in the last year, which shows it is boosting investment in the business. And that is all the more of a concern in light of the fact that operating revenue was actually down by 56% in the last year, as the company no doubt scrambles to change its fortunes. In light of the above-mentioned, we're pretty wary of the trajectory the company seems to be on. Clearly, however, the crucial factor is whether the company will grow its business going forward. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.

Can Synlogic Raise More Cash Easily?

Since Synlogic can't yet boast improving growth metrics, the market will likely be considering how it can raise more cash if need be. 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. 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.

In the last year, Synlogic burned through US$75m, which is just about equal to its US$75m market cap. Given just how high that expenditure is, relative to the company's market value, we think there's an elevated risk of funding distress, and we would be very nervous about holding the stock.

How Risky Is Synlogic's Cash Burn Situation?

On this analysis of Synlogic's cash burn, we think its cash runway was reassuring, while its cash burn relative to its market cap has us a bit worried. After looking at that range of measures, we think shareholders should be extremely attentive to how the company is using its cash, as the cash burn makes us uncomfortable. We think it's very important to consider the cash burn for loss making companies, but other considerations such as the amount the CEO is paid can also enhance your understanding of the business. You can click here to see what Synlogic's CEO gets paid each year.

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.