We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. 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 Terns Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:TERN) 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. Let's start with an examination of the business' cash, relative to its cash burn.
When Might Terns Pharmaceuticals Run Out Of Money?
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. In September 2022, Terns Pharmaceuticals had US$187m in cash, and was debt-free. In the last year, its cash burn was US$49m. Therefore, from September 2022 it had 3.8 years of cash runway. There's no doubt that this is a reassuringly long runway. You can see how its cash balance has changed over time in the image below.
How Is Terns Pharmaceuticals' Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Whilst it's great to see that Terns Pharmaceuticals has already begun generating revenue from operations, last year it only produced US$1.0m, so we don't think it is generating significant revenue, at this point. Therefore, for the purposes of this analysis we'll focus on how the cash burn is tracking. Over the last year its cash burn actually increased by 27%, which suggests that management are increasing investment in future growth, but not too quickly. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but investors should be mindful of the fact that will shorten the cash runway. 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 Hard Would It Be For Terns Pharmaceuticals To Raise More Cash For Growth?
Given its cash burn trajectory, Terns Pharmaceuticals 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.
Terns Pharmaceuticals has a market capitalisation of US$177m and burnt through US$49m last year, which is 28% 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.
Is Terns Pharmaceuticals' Cash Burn A Worry?
Even though its increasing cash burn makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Terns Pharmaceuticals' cash runway was relatively promising. 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. Separately, we looked at different risks affecting the company and spotted 5 warning signs for Terns Pharmaceuticals (of which 3 can't be ignored!) you should know about.
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.
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