We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. For example, although Amazon.com made losses for many years after listing, if you had bought and held the shares since 1999, you would have made a fortune. Nonetheless, only a fool would ignore the risk that a loss making company burns through its cash too quickly.
So should American Well (NYSE:AMWL) shareholders be worried about its cash burn? For the purposes of this article, cash burn is the annual rate at which an unprofitable company spends cash to fund its growth; its negative free cash flow. The first step is to compare its cash burn with its cash reserves, to give us its ‘cash runway’.
When Might American Well Run Out Of Money?
A company’s cash runway is calculated by dividing its cash hoard by its cash burn. As at December 2022, American Well had cash of US$539m and no debt. Importantly, its cash burn was US$203m over the trailing twelve months. That means it had a cash runway of about 2.7 years as of December 2022. That’s decent, giving the company a couple years to develop its business. However, if we extrapolate the company’s recent cash burn trend, then it would have a longer cash run way. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.
How Well Is American Well Growing?
Some investors might find it troubling that American Well is actually increasing its cash burn, which is up 43% in the last year. The revenue growth of 9.7% gives a ray of hope, at the very least. Considering both these factors, we’re not particularly excited by its growth profile. Clearly, however, the crucial factor is whether the company will grow its business going forward. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.
How Easily Can American Well Raise Cash?
While American Well seems to be in a fairly good position, it’s still worth considering how easily it could raise more cash, even just to fuel faster growth. Companies can raise capital through either debt or equity. Many companies end up issuing new shares to fund future 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.
American Well has a market capitalisation of US$575m and burnt through US$203m last year, which is 35% of the company’s market value. That’s not insignificant, and if the company had to sell enough shares to fund another year’s growth at the current share price, you’d likely witness fairly costly dilution.
Is American Well’s Cash Burn A Worry?
On this analysis of American Well’s cash burn, we think its cash runway was reassuring, while its cash burn relative to its market cap has us a bit worried. Even though we don’t think it has a problem with its cash burn, the analysis we’ve done in this article does suggest that shareholders should give some careful thought to the potential cost of raising more money in the future. Taking an in-depth view of risks, we’ve identified 3 warning signs for American Well that you should be aware of before investing.
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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.