We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. By way of example, Iovance Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ:IOVA) has seen its share price rise 147% over the last year, delighting many shareholders. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?
So notwithstanding the buoyant share price, we think it's well worth asking whether Iovance Biotherapeutics's cash burn is too risky 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.
How Long Is Iovance Biotherapeutics's 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 September 2019, Iovance Biotherapeutics had US$362m in cash, and was debt-free. In the last year, its cash burn was US$140m. That means it had a cash runway of about 2.6 years as of September 2019. Importantly, analysts think that Iovance Biotherapeutics will reach cashflow breakeven in 4 years. That means unless the company reduces its cash burn quickly, it may well look to raise more cash. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.
How Is Iovance Biotherapeutics's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Because Iovance Biotherapeutics 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. During the last twelve months, its cash burn actually ramped up 53%. While this spending increase is no doubt intended to drive growth, if the trend continues the company's cash runway will shrink very quickly. 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.
How Easily Can Iovance Biotherapeutics Raise Cash?
While Iovance Biotherapeutics 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. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. Many companies end up issuing new shares to fund future 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).
Since it has a market capitalisation of US$3.1b, Iovance Biotherapeutics's US$140m in cash burn equates to about 4.5% of its market value. Given that is a rather small percentage, it would probably be really easy for the company to fund another year's growth by issuing some new shares to investors, or even by taking out a loan.
Is Iovance Biotherapeutics's Cash Burn A Worry?
It may already be apparent to you that we're relatively comfortable with the way Iovance Biotherapeutics is burning through its cash. In particular, we think its cash runway stands out as evidence that the company is well on top of its spending. Although its increasing cash burn does give us reason for pause, the other metrics we discussed in this article form a positive picture overall. Shareholders can take heart from the fact that analysts are forecasting it will reach breakeven. 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. While it's important to consider hard data like the metrics discussed above, many investors would also be interested to note that Iovance Biotherapeutics insiders have been trading shares in the company. Click here to find out if they have been buying or selling.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies insiders are buying, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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