We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. By way of example, Lake Resources (ASX:LKE) has seen its share price rise 519% over the last year, delighting many shareholders. Having said that, unprofitable companies are risky because they could potentially burn through all their cash and become distressed.
So notwithstanding the buoyant share price, we think it's well worth asking whether Lake Resources' cash burn is too risky. In this report, we will consider the company's annual negative free cash flow, henceforth referring to it as the 'cash burn'. The first step is to compare its cash burn with its cash reserves, to give us its 'cash runway'.
How Long Is Lake Resources' Cash Runway?
A company's cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. When Lake Resources last reported its balance sheet in December 2021, it had zero debt and cash worth AU$71m. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through AU$12m. Therefore, from December 2021 it had 6.1 years of cash runway. Notably, however, analysts think that Lake Resources will break even (at a free cash flow level) before then. If that happens, then the length of its cash runway, today, would become a moot point. You can see how its cash balance has changed over time in the image below.
How Is Lake Resources' Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Lake Resources 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. In fact, it ramped its spending strongly over the last year, increasing cash burn by 171%. With spending growing that quickly, shareholders will be hoping that the money is prudently spent. 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 Lake Resources Raise More Cash Easily?
Given its cash burn trajectory, Lake Resources 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.
Lake Resources has a market capitalisation of AU$2.1b and burnt through AU$12m last year, which is 0.6% of the company's market value. That means it could easily issue a few shares to fund more growth, and might well be in a position to borrow cheaply.
Is Lake Resources' Cash Burn A Worry?
It may already be apparent to you that we're relatively comfortable with the way Lake Resources is burning through its cash. In particular, we think its cash runway stands out as evidence that the company is well on top of its spending. While we must concede that its increasing cash burn is a bit worrying, the other factors mentioned in this article provide great comfort when it comes to the cash burn. One real positive is that analysts are forecasting that the company will reach breakeven. After taking into account the various metrics mentioned in this report, we're pretty comfortable with how the company is spending its cash, as it seems on track to meet its needs over the medium term. On another note, we conducted an in-depth investigation of the company, and identified 4 warning signs for Lake Resources (1 makes us a bit uncomfortable!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
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.
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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.