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Can Xenetic Biosciences (NASDAQ:XBIO) Fund Its Growth Plans?

Simply Wall St

We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. 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. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?

So should Xenetic Biosciences (NASDAQ:XBIO) 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.

View our latest analysis for Xenetic Biosciences

Does Xenetic Biosciences 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. When Xenetic Biosciences last reported its balance sheet in June 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth US$1.0m. Importantly, its cash burn was US$5.0m over the trailing twelve months. That means it had a cash runway of around 2 months as of June 2019. With a cash runway that short, we strongly believe that the company must raise cash or else douse its cash burn promptly. Importantly, if we extrapolate recent cash burn trends, the cash runway would be a lot longer. Depicted below, you can see how its cash holdings have changed over time.

NasdaqCM:XBIO Historical Debt, October 18th 2019

How Well Is Xenetic Biosciences Growing?

One thing for shareholders to keep front in mind is that Xenetic Biosciences increased its cash burn by 805% in the last twelve months. That's not ideal, but we're made even more nervous given that operating revenue was flat over the same period. In light of the above-mentioned, we're pretty wary of the trajectory the company seems to be on. Of course, we've only taken a quick look at the stock's growth metrics, here. This graph of historic earnings and revenue shows how Xenetic Biosciences is building its business over time.

How Hard Would It Be For Xenetic Biosciences To Raise More Cash For Growth?

Given its revenue and free cash flow are both moving in the wrong direction, shareholders may well be wondering how easily Xenetic Biosciences could raise cash. Generally speaking, a listed business can raise new cash through issuing shares or taking on debt. Commonly, a business will sell new shares in itself to raise cash to drive 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).

Xenetic Biosciences's cash burn of US$5.0m is about the same as its market capitalisation of US$5.1m. Given just how high that expenditure is, relative to the company's market value, we think there's an elevated risk of funding distress, and we would be very nervous about holding the stock.

How Risky Is Xenetic Biosciences's Cash Burn Situation?

There are no prizes for guessing that we think Xenetic Biosciences's cash burn is a bit of a worry. Take, for example, its cash burn relative to its market cap, which suggests the company may have difficulty funding itself, in the future. While not as bad as its cash burn relative to its market cap, its falling revenue is also a concern, and considering everything mentioned above, we're struggling to find much to be optimistic about. Its cash burn situation feels about as comfortable as sitting next to the lavatory on a long haul flight. The need for more cash seems just around the corner, and any dilution is likely to be rather severe. 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 Xenetic Biosciences 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.