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We're Hopeful That Translate Bio (NASDAQ:TBIO) Will Use Its Cash Wisely

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Simply Wall St
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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, biotech and mining exploration companies often lose money for years before finding success with a new treatment or mineral discovery. But while the successes are well known, investors should not ignore the very many unprofitable companies that simply burn through all their cash and collapse.

So should Translate Bio (NASDAQ:TBIO) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? For the purposes of this article, cash burn is the annual rate at which an unprofitable company spends cash to fund its growth; its negative free cash flow. We'll start by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves in order to calculate its cash runway.

See our latest analysis for Translate Bio

How Long Is Translate Bio's Cash Runway?

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 Translate Bio last reported its balance sheet in September 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth US$210m. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$81m. Therefore, from September 2019 it had 2.6 years of cash runway. That's decent, giving the company a couple years to develop its business. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.

NasdaqGS:TBIO Historical Debt, November 14th 2019
NasdaqGS:TBIO Historical Debt, November 14th 2019

How Is Translate Bio's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?

In the last year, Translate Bio did book revenue of US$5.1m, but its revenue from operations was less, at just US$5.1m. Given how low that operating leverage is, we think it's too early to put much weight on the revenue growth, so we'll focus on how the cash burn is changing, instead. Remarkably, it actually increased its cash burn by 203% in the last year. Given that sharp increase in spending, the company's cash runway will shrink rapidly as it depletes its cash reserves. 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.

Can Translate Bio Raise More Cash Easily?

While Translate Bio does have a solid cash runway, its cash burn trajectory may have some shareholders thinking ahead to when the company may need to raise more cash. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. Many companies end up issuing new shares to fund future growth. By comparing a company's annual cash burn to its total market capitalisation, we can estimate roughly how many shares it would have to issue in order to run the company for another year (at the same burn rate).

Translate Bio has a market capitalisation of US$559m and burnt through US$81m last year, which is 15% of the company's market value. Given that situation, it's fair to say the company wouldn't have much trouble raising more cash for growth, but shareholders would be somewhat diluted.

How Risky Is Translate Bio's Cash Burn Situation?

Even though its increasing cash burn makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Translate Bio's cash runway was relatively promising. While we're the kind of investors who are always a bit concerned about the risks involved with cash burning companies, the metrics we have discussed in this article leave us relatively comfortable about Translate Bio's situation. For us, it's always important to consider risks around cash burn rates. But investors should look at a whole range of factors when researching a new stock. For example, it could be interesting to see how much the Translate Bio CEO receives in total remuneration.

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)

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.

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. Thank you for reading.