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. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?
So should Unity Biotechnology (NASDAQ:UBX) shareholders be worried about its 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). Let's start with an examination of the business's cash, relative to its cash burn.
Does Unity Biotechnology Have A Long Cash Runway?
You can calculate a company's cash runway by dividing the amount of cash it has by the rate at which it is spending that cash. Unity Biotechnology has such a small amount of debt that we'll set it aside, and focus on the US$128m in cash it held at June 2019. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$68m. That means it had a cash runway of around 23 months as of June 2019. While that cash runway isn't too concerning, sensible holders would be peering into the distance, and considering what happens if the company runs out of cash. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.
How Well Is Unity Biotechnology Growing?
Some investors might find it troubling that Unity Biotechnology is actually increasing its cash burn, which is up 31% in the last year. To be fair, given that fact it's hardly inspiring to see that the operating revenue was flat year on year. Considering both these factors, we're not particularly excited by its growth profile. 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 Easily Can Unity Biotechnology Raise Cash?
While Unity Biotechnology seems to be in a fairly good position, it's still worth considering how easily it could raise more cash, even just to fuel faster growth. 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.
Unity Biotechnology's cash burn of US$68m is about 23% of its US$290m market capitalisation. That's fairly notable cash burn, so if the company had to sell shares to cover the cost of another year's operations, shareholders would suffer some costly dilution.
How Risky Is Unity Biotechnology's Cash Burn Situation?
On this analysis of Unity Biotechnology's cash burn, we think its cash runway was reassuring, while its increasing cash burn has us a bit worried. We don't think its cash burn is particularly problematic, but after considering the range of factors in this article, we do think shareholders should be monitoring how it changes over time. We think it's very important to consider the cash burn for loss making companies, but other considerations such as the amount the CEO is paid can also enhance your understanding of the business. You can click here to see what Unity Biotechnology's CEO gets paid each year.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies insiders are buying, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.