Broadly speaking, profitable businesses are less risky than unprofitable ones. That said, the current statutory profit is not always a good guide to a company’s underlying profitability. Today we’ll focus on whether this year’s statutory profits are a good guide to understanding Alibaba Health Information Technology (HKG:241).
While Alibaba Health Information Technology was able to generate revenue of CN¥12.6b in the last twelve months, we think its profit result of CN¥277.9m was more important. At the risk of seeming quaint, we do like to at least examine profit, even when a stock is improving revenue and considered a ‘growth stock’. The chart below shows that revenue has improved over the last three years, and, even better, the company has moved from unprofitable to profitable.
See our latest analysis for Alibaba Health Information Technology
Of course, it is only sensible to look beyond the statutory profits and question how well those numbers represent the sustainable earnings power of the business. So this article aims to better understand Alibaba Health Information Technology’s underlying earnings power by taking a look at how dilution, and unusual items are impacting it, and considering how well those paper profits are being converted into cash flow. That might leave you wondering what analysts are forecasting in terms of future profitability. Luckily, you can click here to see an interactive graph depicting future profitability, based on their estimates.
Zooming In On Alibaba Health Information Technology’s Earnings
In high finance, the key ratio used to measure how well a company converts reported profits into free cash flow (FCF) is the accrual ratio (from cashflow). The accrual ratio subtracts the FCF from the profit for a given period, and divides the result by the average operating assets of the company over that time. You could think of the accrual ratio from cashflow as the ‘non-FCF profit ratio’.
Therefore, it’s actually considered a good thing when a company has a negative accrual ratio, but a bad thing if its accrual ratio is positive. That is not intended to imply we should worry about a positive accrual ratio, but it’s worth noting where the accrual ratio is rather high. Notably, there is some academic evidence that suggests that a high accrual ratio is a bad sign for near-term profits, generally speaking.
For the year to September 2020, Alibaba Health Information Technology had an accrual ratio of -0.18. That indicates that its free cash flow quite significantly exceeded its statutory profit. Indeed, in the last twelve months it reported free cash flow of CN¥668m, well over the CN¥277.9m it reported in profit. Alibaba Health Information Technology shareholders are no doubt pleased that free cash flow improved over the last twelve months. Having said that, there is more to consider. We can look at how unusual items in the profit and loss statement impacted its accrual ratio, as well as explore how dilution is impacting shareholders negatively.
One essential aspect of assessing earnings quality is to look at how much a company is diluting shareholders. As it happens, Alibaba Health Information Technology issued 12% more new shares over the last year. That means its earnings are split among a greater number of shares. Per share metrics like EPS help us understand how much actual shareholders are benefitting from the company’s profits, while the net income level gives us a better view of the company’s absolute size. You can see a chart of Alibaba Health Information Technology’s EPS by clicking here.
How Is Dilution Impacting Alibaba Health Information Technology’s Earnings Per Share? (EPS)
Three years ago, Alibaba Health Information Technology lost money. On the bright side, in the last twelve months it grew profit by 27,379%. But EPS was less impressive, up only 24,542% in that time. So you can see that the dilution has had a bit of an impact on shareholders. Therefore, the dilution is having a noteworthy influence on shareholder returns. And so, you can see quite clearly that dilution is influencing shareholder earnings.
Changes in the share price do tend to reflect changes in earnings per share, in the long run. So Alibaba Health Information Technology shareholders will want to see that EPS figure continue to increase. But on the other hand, we’d be far less excited to learn profit (but not EPS) was improving. For the ordinary retail shareholder, EPS is a great measure to check your hypothetical “share” of the company’s profit.
The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit
While the accrual ratio might bode well, we also note that Alibaba Health Information Technology’s profit was boosted by unusual items worth CN¥65m in the last twelve months. While it’s always nice to have higher profit, a large contribution from unusual items sometimes dampens our enthusiasm. When we crunched the numbers on thousands of publicly listed companies, we found that a boost from unusual items in a given year is often not repeated the next year. And, after all, that’s exactly what the accounting terminology implies. We can see that Alibaba Health Information Technology’s positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to September 2020. As a result, we can surmise that the unusual items are making its statutory profit significantly stronger than it would otherwise be.
Our Take On Alibaba Health Information Technology’s Profit Performance
In conclusion, Alibaba Health Information Technology’s accrual ratio suggests its earnings are well backed by cash but its boost from unusual items is probably not going to be repeated consistently. Meanwhile, the dilution was a negative for shareholders. Based on these factors, we think that Alibaba Health Information Technology’s statutory profits probably make it seem better than it is on an underlying level. If you’d like to know more about Alibaba Health Information Technology as a business, it’s important to be aware of any risks it’s facing. While conducting our analysis, we found that Alibaba Health Information Technology has 2 warning signs and it would be unwise to ignore these.
Our examination of Alibaba Health Information Technology has focussed on certain factors that can make its earnings look better than they are. And, on that basis, we are somewhat skeptical. But there are plenty of other ways to inform your opinion of a company. Some people consider a high return on equity to be a good sign of a quality business. While it might take a little research on your behalf, you may find this free collection of companies boasting high return on equity, or this list of stocks that insiders are buying to be useful.
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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. 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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