There's no doubt that money can be made by owning shares of unprofitable businesses. For example, although software-as-a-service business Salesforce.com lost money for years while it grew recurring revenue, if you held shares since 2005, you'd have done very well indeed. Nonetheless, only a fool would ignore the risk that a loss making company burns through its cash too quickly.
So should Rockhopper Exploration (LON:RKH) 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. First, we'll determine its cash runway by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves.
Does Rockhopper Exploration 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 Rockhopper Exploration last reported its balance sheet in June 2021, it had zero debt and cash worth US$7.1m. In the last year, its cash burn was US$13m. That means it had a cash runway of around 6 months as of June 2021. To be frank, this kind of short runway puts us on edge, as it indicates the company must reduce its cash burn significantly, or else raise cash imminently. Importantly, if we extrapolate recent cash burn trends, the cash runway would be a lot longer. You can see how its cash balance has changed over time in the image below.
How Is Rockhopper Exploration's Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Although Rockhopper Exploration had revenue of US$634k in the last twelve months, its operating revenue was only US$634k in that time period. Given how low that operating leverage is, we think it's too early to put much weight on the revenue growth, so we'll focus on how the cash burn is changing, instead. Given the length of the cash runway, we'd interpret the 39% reduction in cash burn, in twelve months, as prudent if not necessary for capital preservation. 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 Rockhopper Exploration To Raise More Cash For Growth?
While Rockhopper Exploration is showing a solid reduction in its cash burn, it's still worth considering how easily it could raise more cash, even just to fuel faster growth. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. Many companies end up issuing new shares to fund future 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).
Rockhopper Exploration has a market capitalisation of US$52m and burnt through US$13m last year, which is 26% of the company's market value. 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.
Is Rockhopper Exploration's Cash Burn A Worry?
Even though its cash runway makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought Rockhopper Exploration's cash burn reduction was relatively promising. Considering all the measures mentioned in this report, we reckon that its cash burn is fairly risky, and if we held shares we'd be watching like a hawk for any deterioration. Taking a deeper dive, we've spotted 5 warning signs for Rockhopper Exploration you should be aware of, and 2 of them are concerning.
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.