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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.
So, the natural question for Belite Bio (NASDAQ:BLTE) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of 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. Let's start with an examination of the business' cash, relative to its cash burn.
How Long Is Belite Bio's Cash Runway?
A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. In December 2021, Belite Bio had US$17m in cash, and was debt-free. In the last year, its cash burn was US$7.5m. Therefore, from December 2021 it had 2.3 years of cash runway. Arguably, that's a prudent and sensible length of runway to have. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.
How Is Belite Bio's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Because Belite Bio 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. Over the last year its cash burn actually increased by a very significant 69%. Oftentimes, increased cash burn simply means a company is accelerating its business development, but one should always be mindful that this causes the cash runway to shrink. 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.
Can Belite Bio Raise More Cash Easily?
Given its cash burn trajectory, Belite Bio shareholders may wish to consider how easily it could raise more cash, despite its solid cash runway. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. Commonly, a business will sell new shares in itself to raise cash and 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.
Belite Bio has a market capitalisation of US$836m and burnt through US$7.5m last year, which is 0.9% of the company's market value. So it could almost certainly just borrow a little to fund another year's growth, or else easily raise the cash by issuing a few shares.
Is Belite Bio's Cash Burn A Worry?
It may already be apparent to you that we're relatively comfortable with the way Belite Bio is burning through its cash. In particular, we think its cash burn relative to its market cap 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. Considering all the factors discussed in this article, we're not overly concerned about the company's cash burn, although we do think shareholders should keep an eye on how it develops. On another note, we conducted an in-depth investigation of the company, and identified 5 warning signs for Belite Bio (3 are concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
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)
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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