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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. Nonetheless, only a fool would ignore the risk that a loss making company burns through its cash too quickly.
Given this risk, we thought we'd take a look at whether Relay Therapeutics (NASDAQ:RLAY) shareholders should 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.
How Long Is Relay Therapeutics' 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. As at September 2020, Relay Therapeutics had cash of US$713m and no debt. Importantly, its cash burn was US$92m over the trailing twelve months. So it had a cash runway of about 7.7 years from September 2020. Even though this is but one measure of the company's cash burn, the thought of such a long cash runway warms our bellies in a comforting way. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.
How Is Relay Therapeutics' Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Relay Therapeutics didn't record any revenue over the last year, indicating that it's an early stage company still developing its 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. With the cash burn rate up 38% in the last year, it seems that the company is ratcheting up investment in the business over time. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but investors should be mindful of the fact that will shorten the cash runway. 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 Relay Therapeutics Raise More Cash Easily?
While Relay Therapeutics 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).
Relay Therapeutics' cash burn of US$92m is about 2.5% of its US$3.8b 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.
How Risky Is Relay Therapeutics' Cash Burn Situation?
As you can probably tell by now, we're not too worried about Relay Therapeutics' cash burn. 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. Looking at all the measures in this article, together, we're not worried about its rate of cash burn; the company seems well on top of its medium-term spending needs. Readers need to have a sound understanding of business risks before investing in a stock, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Relay Therapeutics that potential shareholders should take into account before putting money into a stock.
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)
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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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