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Can Laura Ashley Holdings (LON:ALY) Afford To Invest In Growth?

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 the harsh reality is that very many loss making companies burn through all their cash and go bankrupt.

So, the natural question for Laura Ashley Holdings (LON:ALY) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of cash burn. In this article, we define cash burn as its annual (negative) free cash flow, which is the amount of money a company spends each year to fund its growth. First, we'll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.

See our latest analysis for Laura Ashley Holdings

When Might Laura Ashley Holdings Run Out Of Money?

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 Laura Ashley Holdings last reported its balance sheet in June 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth UK£800k. Importantly, its cash burn was UK£3.1m over the trailing twelve months. Therefore, from June 2019 it had roughly 3 months of cash runway. That's a very short cash runway which indicates an imminent need to douse the cash burn or find more funding. You can see how its cash balance has changed over time in the image below.

LSE:ALY Historical Debt, November 11th 2019

Is Laura Ashley Holdings's Revenue Growing?

We're hesitant to extrapolate on the recent trend to assess its cash burn, because Laura Ashley Holdings actually had positive free cash flow last year, so operating revenue growth is probably our best bet to measure, right now. Unfortunately, the last year has been a disappointment, with operating revenue dropping 9.6% during the period. 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.

Can Laura Ashley Holdings Raise More Cash Easily?

Given its problematic fall in revenue, Laura Ashley Holdings shareholders should consider how the company could fund its growth, if it turns out it needs more cash. Generally speaking, a listed business can raise new cash through issuing shares or taking on debt. One of the main advantages held by publicly listed companies is that they can sell shares to investors to raise cash to fund 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).

Laura Ashley Holdings's cash burn of UK£3.1m is about 22% of its UK£14m market capitalisation. That's not insignificant, and if the company had to sell enough shares to fund another year's growth at the current share price, you'd likely witness fairly costly dilution.

How Risky Is Laura Ashley Holdings's Cash Burn Situation?

Laura Ashley Holdings 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 we always like to monitor cash burn for early stage companies, qualitative factors such as the CEO pay can also shed light on the situation. Click here to see free what the Laura Ashley Holdings CEO is paid..

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.