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Can Vuzix (NASDAQ:VUZI) Afford To Invest In Growth?

Simply Wall St

Even when a business is losing money, it's possible for shareholders to make money if they buy a good business at the right price. For example, although software-as-a-service business Salesforce.com lost money for years while it grew recurring revenue, if you held shares since 2005, you'd have done very well indeed. Having said that, unprofitable companies are risky because they could potentially burn through all their cash and become distressed.

So, the natural question for Vuzix (NASDAQ:VUZI) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of 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). We'll start by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves in order to calculate its cash runway.

View our latest analysis for Vuzix

How Long Is Vuzix's Cash Runway?

A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. When Vuzix last reported its balance sheet in September 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth US$16m. Importantly, its cash burn was US$27m over the trailing twelve months. That means it had a cash runway of around 7 months as of September 2019. Notably, analysts forecast that Vuzix will break even (at a free cash flow level) in about 4 years. That means unless the company reduces its cash burn quickly, it may well look to raise more cash. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

NasdaqCM:VUZI Historical Debt, December 24th 2019

How Well Is Vuzix Growing?

At first glance it's a bit worrying to see that Vuzix actually boosted its cash burn by 7.3%, year on year. And we must say we find it concerning that operating revenue dropped 13% over the same period. In light of the data above, we're fairly sanguine about the business growth trajectory. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. So you might want to take a peek at how much the company is expected to grow in the next few years.

How Hard Would It Be For Vuzix To Raise More Cash For Growth?

Since Vuzix can't yet boast improving growth metrics, the market will likely be considering how it can raise more cash if need be. Generally speaking, a listed business can raise new cash through issuing shares or taking on debt. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash to fund 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.

Vuzix has a market capitalisation of US$71m and burnt through US$27m last year, which is 37% of the company's market value. That's not insignificant, and if the company had to sell enough shares to fund another year's growth at the current share price, you'd likely witness fairly costly dilution.

How Risky Is Vuzix's Cash Burn Situation?

We must admit that we don't think Vuzix is in a very strong position, when it comes to its cash burn. Although we can understand if some shareholders find its increasing cash burn acceptable, we can't ignore the fact that we consider its cash runway to be downright troublesome. One real positive is that analysts are forecasting that the company will reach breakeven. After looking at that range of measures, we think shareholders should be extremely attentive to how the company is using its cash, as the cash burn makes us uncomfortable. 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: Vuzix insiders have been trading shares, according to our data. Click here to check whether insiders have been buying or selling.

If you would prefer to check out another company with better fundamentals, then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt or this list of stocks which are all forecast to grow.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.