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We Think Heat Biologics (NASDAQ:HTBX) Needs To Drive Business Growth Carefully

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There's no doubt that money can be made by owning shares of unprofitable businesses. For example, biotech and mining exploration companies often lose money for years before finding success with a new treatment or mineral discovery. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?

So should Heat Biologics (NASDAQ:HTBX) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? In this article, we define cash burn as its annual (negative) free cash flow, which is the amount of money a company spends each year to fund its growth. First, we'll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.

Check out our latest analysis for Heat Biologics

When Might Heat Biologics 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. As at June 2019, Heat Biologics had cash of US$19m and no debt. In the last year, its cash burn was US$18m. Therefore, from June 2019 it had roughly 13 months of cash runway. 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.

NasdaqCM:HTBX Historical Debt, November 7th 2019
NasdaqCM:HTBX Historical Debt, November 7th 2019

How Well Is Heat Biologics Growing?

At first glance it's a bit worrying to see that Heat Biologics actually boosted its cash burn by 39%, year on year. Having said that, it's revenue is up a very solid 66% in the last year, so there's plenty of reason to believe in the growth story. Of course, with spend going up shareholders will want to see fast growth continue. It seems to be growing nicely. 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.

Can Heat Biologics Raise More Cash Easily?

While Heat Biologics seems to be in a fairly good position, it's still worth considering how easily it could raise more cash, even just to fuel faster growth. Generally speaking, a listed business can raise new cash through issuing shares or taking on debt. Commonly, a business will sell new shares in itself to raise cash to drive 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.

Heat Biologics's cash burn of US$18m is about the same as its market capitalisation of US$18m. 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 Heat Biologics's Cash Burn Situation?

Even though its cash burn relative to its market cap makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Heat Biologics's revenue growth was relatively promising. Summing up, we think the Heat Biologics's cash burn is a risk, based on the factors we mentioned in this article. 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 Heat Biologics'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.