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We're A Little Worried About VistaGen Therapeutics's (NASDAQ:VTGN) Cash Burn Rate

Simply Wall St

Just because a business does not make any money, does not mean that the stock will go down. For example, although Amazon.com made losses for many years after listing, if you had bought and held the shares since 1999, you would have made a fortune. Having said that, unprofitable companies are risky because they could potentially burn through all their cash and become distressed.

So, the natural question for VistaGen Therapeutics (NASDAQ:VTGN) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of 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. First, we'll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.

See our latest analysis for VistaGen Therapeutics

Does VistaGen Therapeutics Have A Long Cash Runway?

A cash runway is defined as the length of time it would take a company to run out of money if it kept spending at its current rate of cash burn. VistaGen Therapeutics has such a small amount of debt that we'll set it aside, and focus on the US$8.3m in cash it held at June 2019. Looking at the last year, the company burnt through US$16m. That means it had a cash runway of around 6 months as of June 2019. That's quite a short cash runway, indicating the company must either reduce its annual cash burn or replenish its cash. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

NasdaqCM:VTGN Historical Debt, November 1st 2019

How Is VistaGen Therapeutics's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?

Because VistaGen Therapeutics isn't currently generating revenue, we consider it an early-stage business. Nonetheless, we can still examine its cash burn trajectory as part of our assessment of its cash burn situation. Over the last year its cash burn actually increased by a very significant 61%. While this spending increase is no doubt intended to drive growth, if the trend continues the company's cash runway will shrink very quickly. Clearly, however, the crucial factor is whether the company will grow its business going forward. 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 VistaGen Therapeutics Raise Cash?

Since its cash burn is moving in the wrong direction, VistaGen Therapeutics shareholders may wish to think ahead to when the company may need to raise more cash. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. 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.

VistaGen Therapeutics has a market capitalisation of US$48m and burnt through US$16m last year, which is 34% of the company's market value. 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 VistaGen Therapeutics's Cash Burn Situation?

VistaGen Therapeutics is not in a great position when it comes to its cash burn situation. While its cash burn relative to its market cap wasn't too bad, its cash runway does leave us rather nervous. Once we consider the metrics mentioned in this article together, we're left with very little confidence in the company's ability to manage its cash burn, and we think it will probably need more money. While it's important to consider hard data like the metrics discussed above, many investors would also be interested to note that VistaGen Therapeutics insiders have been trading shares in the company. Click here to find out if they have been buying or selling.

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)

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.