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. But while history lauds those rare successes, those that fail are often forgotten; who remembers Pets.com?
So, the natural question for NextDecade (NASDAQ:NEXT) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of 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’.
When Might NextDecade Run Out Of Money?
A cash runway is defined as the length of time it would take a company to run out of money if it kept spending at its current rate of cash burn. In December 2022, NextDecade had US$63m in cash, and was debt-free. Importantly, its cash burn was US$74m over the trailing twelve months. That means it had a cash runway of around 10 months as of December 2022. 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. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.
How Is NextDecade’s Cash Burn Changing Over Time?
Because NextDecade isn’t currently generating revenue, we consider it an early-stage 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. In fact, it ramped its spending strongly over the last year, increasing cash burn by 146%. That sort of spending growth rate can’t continue for very long before it causes balance sheet weakness, generally speaking. While the past is always worth studying, it is the future that matters most of all. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at our analyst forecasts for the company.
How Easily Can NextDecade Raise Cash?
Since its cash burn is moving in the wrong direction, NextDecade shareholders may wish to think ahead to when the company may need to raise more cash. Issuing new shares, or taking on debt, are the most common ways for a listed company to raise more money for its business. Many companies end up issuing new shares to fund future 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).
Since it has a market capitalisation of US$938m, NextDecade’s US$74m in cash burn equates to about 7.9% of its 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.
Is NextDecade’s Cash Burn A Worry?
Even though its increasing cash burn makes us a little nervous, we are compelled to mention that we thought NextDecade’s cash burn relative to its market cap was relatively promising. Looking at the factors mentioned in this short report, we do think that its cash burn is a bit risky, and it does make us slightly nervous about the stock. Taking a deeper dive, we’ve spotted 6 warning signs for NextDecade you should be aware of, and 3 of them are a bit unpleasant.
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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.