Even when a business is losing money, it’s possible for shareholders to make money if they buy a good business at the right price. For example, biotech and mining exploration companies often lose money for years before finding success with a new treatment or mineral discovery. Nonetheless, only a fool would ignore the risk that a loss making company burns through its cash too quickly.

So should Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? In this report, we will consider the company’s annual negative free cash flow, henceforth referring to it as the ‘cash burn’. Let’s start with an examination of the business’s cash, relative to its cash burn.

Does Australian Vanadium 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 Australian Vanadium last reported its balance sheet in June 2019, it had zero debt and cash worth AU$4.4m. Importantly, its cash burn was AU$7.8m over the trailing twelve months. So it had a cash runway of approximately 7 months from June 2019. 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. We should note, however, that if we extrapolate recent trends in its cash burn, then its cash runway would get a lot longer. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

ASX:AVL Historical Debt, October 14th 2019
ASX:AVL Historical Debt, October 14th 2019

How Is Australian Vanadium’s Cash Burn Changing Over Time?

Australian Vanadium didn’t record any revenue over the last year, indicating that it’s an early stage company still developing its business. Nonetheless, we can still examine its cash burn trajectory as part of our assessment of its cash burn situation. Its cash burn positively exploded in the last year, up 255%. Given that sharp increase in spending, the company’s cash runway will shrink rapidly as it depletes its cash reserves. Admittedly, we’re a bit cautious of Australian Vanadium due to its lack of significant operating revenues. We prefer most of the stocks on this list of stocks that analysts expect to grow.

Can Australian Vanadium Raise More Cash Easily?

Given its cash burn trajectory, Australian Vanadium shareholders should already be thinking about how easy it might be for it to raise further cash in the future. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. 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).

Australian Vanadium has a market capitalisation of AU$28m and burnt through AU$7.8m 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.

How Risky Is Australian Vanadium’s Cash Burn Situation?

Australian Vanadium is not in a great position when it comes to its cash burn situation. Although we can understand if some shareholders find its cash burn relative to its market cap acceptable, we can’t ignore the fact that we consider its increasing cash burn to be downright troublesome. After considering the data discussed in this article, we don’t have a lot of confidence that its cash burn rate is prudent, as it seems like it might need more cash soon. When you don’t have traditional metrics like earnings per share and free cash flow to value a company, many are extra motivated to consider qualitative factors such as whether insiders are buying or selling shares. Please Note: Australian Vanadium insiders have been trading shares, according to our data. Click here to check whether insiders have been buying or selling.

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.

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