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VistaGen Therapeutics (NASDAQ:VTGN) Is Arguably In A Tricky Situation

Simply Wall St

We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. 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. Having said that, unprofitable companies are risky because they could potentially burn through all their cash and become distressed.

So, the natural question for VistaGen Therapeutics (NASDAQ:VTGN) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of cash burn. In this report, we will consider the company's annual negative free cash flow, henceforth referring to it as the 'cash burn'. We'll start by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves in order to calculate its cash runway.

See our latest analysis for VistaGen Therapeutics

How Long Is VistaGen Therapeutics'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. VistaGen Therapeutics has such a small amount of debt that we'll set it aside, and focus on the US$1.1m in cash it held at December 2019. In the last year, its cash burn was US$17m. So it seems to us it had a cash runway of less than two months from December 2019. It's extremely surprising to us that the company has allowed its cash runway to get that short! Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.

NasdaqCM:VTGN Historical Debt April 29th 2020

How Is VistaGen Therapeutics's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?

Because VistaGen Therapeutics isn't currently generating revenue, we consider it an early-stage business. Nonetheless, we can still examine its cash burn trajectory as part of our assessment of its cash burn situation. With the cash burn rate up 22% in the last year, it seems that the company is ratcheting up investment in the business over time. However, the company's true cash runway will therefore be shorter than suggested above, if spending continues to increase. 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 Hard Would It Be For VistaGen Therapeutics To Raise More Cash For Growth?

Given its cash burn trajectory, VistaGen Therapeutics shareholders should already be thinking about how easy it might be for it to raise further cash in the future. Generally speaking, a listed business can raise new cash through issuing shares or taking on debt. Many companies end up issuing new shares to fund future 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.

VistaGen Therapeutics has a market capitalisation of US$22m and burnt through US$17m last year, which is 75% of the company's market value. That's very high expenditure relative to the company's size, suggesting it is an extremely high risk stock.

How Risky Is VistaGen Therapeutics's Cash Burn Situation?

There are no prizes for guessing that we think VistaGen Therapeutics's cash burn is a bit of a worry. In particular, we think its cash runway suggests it isn't in a good position to keep funding growth. While not as bad as its cash runway, its increasing cash burn is also a concern, and considering everything mentioned above, we're struggling to find much to be optimistic about. Its cash burn burn situation feels about as relaxing as riding your bicycle home in the rain without so much as a jumper. The need for more cash seems just around the corner, and any dilution is likely to be rather severe. Separately, we looked at different risks affecting the company and spotted 5 warning signs for VistaGen Therapeutics (of which 1 can't be ignored!) you should know about.

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)

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.

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