There's no doubt that money can be made by owning shares of unprofitable businesses. 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. But the harsh reality is that very many loss making companies burn through all their cash and go bankrupt.
Given this risk, we thought we'd take a look at whether Synthetic Biologics (NYSEMKT:SYN) shareholders should be worried about its cash burn. For the purpose of this article, we'll define cash burn as the amount of cash the company is spending each year to fund its growth (also called its negative free cash flow). The first step is to compare its cash burn with its cash reserves, to give us its 'cash runway'.
When Might Synthetic Biologics Run Out Of Money?
A company's cash runway is the amount of time it would take to burn through its cash reserves at its current cash burn rate. When Synthetic Biologics last reported its balance sheet in September 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth US$19m. In the last year, its cash burn was US$14m. So it had a cash runway of approximately 16 months from September 2019. 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. You can see how its cash balance has changed over time in the image below.
How Is Synthetic Biologics's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Synthetic Biologics didn't record any revenue over the last year, indicating that it's an early stage company still developing its business. Nonetheless, we can still examine its cash burn trajectory as part of our assessment of its cash burn situation. While it hardly paints a picture of imminent growth, the fact that it has reduced its cash burn by 24% over the last year suggests some degree of prudence. Admittedly, we're a bit cautious of Synthetic Biologics due to its lack of significant operating revenues. So we'd generally prefer stocks from this list of stocks that have analysts forecasting growth.
How Hard Would It Be For Synthetic Biologics To Raise More Cash For Growth?
Even though it has reduced its cash burn recently, shareholders should still consider how easy it would be for Synthetic Biologics to raise more cash in the future. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. Commonly, a business will sell new shares in itself to raise cash to drive 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.
Synthetic Biologics has a market capitalisation of US$9.0m and burnt through US$14m last year, which is 151% of the company's market value. 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.
Is Synthetic Biologics's Cash Burn A Worry?
On this analysis of Synthetic Biologics's cash burn, we think its cash burn reduction was reassuring, while its cash burn relative to its market cap has us a bit worried. Looking at the factors mentioned in this short report, we do think that its cash burn is a bit risky, and it does make us slightly nervous about the stock. 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: Synthetic Biologics insiders have been trading shares, according to our data. Click here to check whether insiders 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 interesting companies, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)
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