Just because a business does not make any money, does not mean that the stock will go down. 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 First Vanadium (CVE:FVAN) 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). The first step is to compare its cash burn with its cash reserves, to give us its ‘cash runway’.

How Long Is First Vanadium’s Cash Runway?

A company’s cash runway is the amount of time it would take to burn through its cash reserves at its current cash burn rate. In August 2019, First Vanadium had CA$1.7m in cash, and was debt-free. In the last year, its cash burn was CA$1.1m. So it had a cash runway of approximately 18 months from August 2019. While that cash runway isn’t too concerning, sensible holders would be peering into the distance, and considering what happens if the company runs out of cash.

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

First Vanadium didn’t record any revenue over the last year, indicating that it’s an early stage company still developing its business. So while we can’t look to sales to understand growth, we can look at how the cash burn is changing to understand how expenditure is trending over time. With cash burn dropping by 16% it seems management feel the company is spending enough to advance its business plans at an appropriate pace. First Vanadium makes us a little nervous due to its lack of substantial operating revenue. So we’d generally prefer stocks from this list of stocks that have analysts forecasting growth.

How Hard Would It Be For First Vanadium To Raise More Cash For Growth?

While First Vanadium 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. 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. We can compare a company’s cash burn to its market capitalisation to get a sense for how many new shares a company would have to issue to fund one year’s operations.

First Vanadium has a market capitalisation of CA$12m and burnt through CA$1.1m last year, which is 9.2% of the company’s market value. Given that is a rather small percentage, it would probably be really easy for the company to fund another year’s growth by issuing some new shares to investors, or even by taking out a loan.

How Risky Is First Vanadium’s Cash Burn Situation?

The good news is that in our view First Vanadium’s cash burn situation gives shareholders real reason for optimism. One the one hand we have its solid cash runway, while on the other it can also boast very strong cash burn relative to its market cap. Cash burning companies are always on the riskier side of things, but after considering all of the factors discussed in this short piece, we’re not too worried about its rate of cash burn. 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.

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