Shareholders didn't seem to be thrilled with Guangdong Land Holdings Limited's (HKG:124) recent earnings report, despite healthy profit numbers. We think that they might be concerned about some underlying details that our analysis found.
See our latest analysis for Guangdong Land HoldingsSEHK:124 Earnings and Revenue History September 29th 2022
A Closer Look At Guangdong Land Holdings' 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. This ratio tells us how much of a company's profit is not backed by free cashflow.
That means a negative accrual ratio is a good thing, because it shows that the company is bringing in more free cash flow than its profit would suggest. While it's not a problem to have a positive accrual ratio, indicating a certain level of non-cash profits, a high accrual ratio is arguably a bad thing, because it indicates paper profits are not matched by cash flow. That's because some academic studies have suggested that high accruals ratios tend to lead to lower profit or less profit growth.
Over the twelve months to June 2022, Guangdong Land Holdings recorded an accrual ratio of 0.55. As a general rule, that bodes poorly for future profitability. To wit, the company did not generate one whit of free cashflow in that time. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of HK$13b, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of HK$1.31b. We also note that Guangdong Land Holdings' free cash flow was actually negative last year as well, so we could understand if shareholders were bothered by its outflow of HK$13b. However, that's not all there is to consider. We can see that unusual items have impacted its statutory profit, and therefore the accrual ratio.
Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of Guangdong Land Holdings.
How Do Unusual Items Influence Profit?
The fact that the company had unusual items boosting profit by HK$676m, in the last year, probably goes some way to explain why its accrual ratio was so weak. While it's always nice to have higher profit, a large contribution from unusual items sometimes dampens our enthusiasm. When we analysed the vast majority of listed companies worldwide, we found that significant unusual items are often not repeated. And that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. Guangdong Land Holdings had a rather significant contribution from unusual items relative to its profit to June 2022. All else being equal, this would likely have the effect of making the statutory profit a poor guide to underlying earnings power.
Our Take On Guangdong Land Holdings' Profit Performance
Summing up, Guangdong Land Holdings received a nice boost to profit from unusual items, but could not match its paper profit with free cash flow. For the reasons mentioned above, we think that a perfunctory glance at Guangdong Land Holdings' statutory profits might make it look better than it really is on an underlying level. So while earnings quality is important, it's equally important to consider the risks facing Guangdong Land Holdings at this point in time. For example, Guangdong Land Holdings has 3 warning signs (and 2 which don't sit too well with us) we think you should know about.
In this article we've looked at a number of factors that can impair the utility of profit numbers, and we've come away cautious. But there is always more to discover if you are capable of focussing your mind on minutiae. For example, many people consider a high return on equity as an indication of favorable business economics, while others like to 'follow the money' and search out stocks that insiders are buying. 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. 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.