Superland Group Holdings Limited (HKG:368) announced strong profits, but the stock was stagnant. Our analysis suggests that shareholders have noticed something concerning in the numbers.
Check out our latest analysis for Superland Group Holdings
A Closer Look At Superland Group 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.
As a result, a negative accrual ratio is a positive for the company, and a positive accrual ratio is a negative. 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.
Over the twelve months to June 2023, Superland Group Holdings recorded an accrual ratio of 0.22. Therefore, we know that it's free cashflow was significantly lower than its statutory profit, which is hardly a good thing. Over the last year it actually had negative free cash flow of HK$67m, in contrast to the aforementioned profit of HK$44.8m. We also note that Superland Group Holdings' free cash flow was actually negative last year as well, so we could understand if shareholders were bothered by its outflow of HK$67m. Having said that, there is more to the story. 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 Superland Group Holdings.
The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit
Given the accrual ratio, it's not overly surprising that Superland Group Holdings' profit was boosted by unusual items worth HK$12m in the last twelve months. While it's always nice to have higher profit, a large contribution from unusual items sometimes dampens our enthusiasm. We ran the numbers on most publicly listed companies worldwide, and it's very common for unusual items to be once-off in nature. And that's as you'd expect, given these boosts are described as 'unusual'. Assuming those unusual items don't show up again in the current year, we'd thus expect profit to be weaker next year (in the absence of business growth, that is).
Our Take On Superland Group Holdings' Profit Performance
Summing up, Superland Group Holdings received a nice boost to profit from unusual items, but could not match its paper profit with free cash flow. Considering all this we'd argue Superland Group Holdings' profits probably give an overly generous impression of its sustainable level of profitability. So while earnings quality is important, it's equally important to consider the risks facing Superland Group Holdings at this point in time. Our analysis shows 4 warning signs for Superland Group Holdings (3 make us uncomfortable!) and we strongly recommend you look at these before investing.
Our examination of Superland Group Holdings 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 is always more to discover if you are capable of focussing your mind on minutiae. 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. 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.