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We Think BELLUS Health (TSE:BLU) Can Afford To Drive Business Growth

Simply Wall St

We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. For example, BELLUS Health (TSE:BLU) shareholders have done very well over the last year, with the share price soaring by 170%. But while the successes are well known, investors should not ignore the very many unprofitable companies that simply burn through all their cash and collapse.

In light of its strong share price run, we think now is a good time to investigate how risky BELLUS Health's cash burn is. In this report, we will consider the company's annual negative free cash flow, henceforth referring to it as the 'cash burn'. First, we'll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.

Check out our latest analysis for BELLUS Health

Does BELLUS Health 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, BELLUS Health had CA$42m in cash, and was debt-free. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through CA$12m. So it had a cash runway of about 3.5 years from June 2019. There's no doubt that this is a reassuringly long runway. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

TSX:BLU Historical Debt, October 19th 2019

How Is BELLUS Health's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?

In our view, BELLUS Health doesn't yet produce significant amounts of operating revenue, since it reported just CA$35k in the last twelve months. Therefore, for the purposes of this analysis we'll focus on how the cash burn is tracking. Over the last year its cash burn actually increased by a very significant 54%. While this spending increase is no doubt intended to drive growth, if the trend continues the company's cash runway will shrink very quickly. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.

How Easily Can BELLUS Health Raise Cash?

Given its cash burn trajectory, BELLUS Health shareholders may wish to consider how easily it could raise more cash, despite its solid cash runway. 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 comparing a company's annual cash burn to its total market capitalisation, we can estimate roughly how many shares it would have to issue in order to run the company for another year (at the same burn rate).

BELLUS Health's cash burn of CA$12m is about 2.3% of its CA$514m market capitalisation. That means it could easily issue a few shares to fund more growth, and might well be in a position to borrow cheaply.

Is BELLUS Health's Cash Burn A Worry?

It may already be apparent to you that we're relatively comfortable with the way BELLUS Health is burning through its cash. For example, we think its cash runway suggests that the company is on a good path. While its increasing cash burn wasn't great, the other factors mentioned in this article more than make up for weakness on that measure. After taking into account the various metrics mentioned in this report, we're pretty comfortable with how the company is spending its cash, as it seems on track to meet its needs over the medium term. When you don't have traditional metrics like earnings per share and free cash flow to value a company, many are extra motivated to consider qualitative factors such as whether insiders are buying or selling shares. Please Note: BELLUS Health insiders have been trading shares, according to our data. Click here to check whether insiders have been buying or selling.

Of course BELLUS Health 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.

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.