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We can readily understand why investors are attracted to unprofitable companies. For example, biotech and mining exploration companies often lose money for years before finding success with a new treatment or mineral discovery. But the harsh reality is that very many loss making companies burn through all their cash and go bankrupt.

So, the natural question for Hepion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:HEPA) shareholders is whether they should be concerned by its rate of cash burn. In this article, we define cash burn as its annual (negative) free cash flow, which is the amount of money a company spends each year to fund its growth. We’ll start by comparing its cash burn with its cash reserves in order to calculate its cash runway.

See our latest analysis for Hepion Pharmaceuticals

How Long Is Hepion Pharmaceuticals’ 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. As at June 2020, Hepion Pharmaceuticals had cash of US$18m and such minimal debt that we can ignore it for the purposes of this analysis. In the last year, its cash burn was US$12m. So it had a cash runway of approximately 17 months from June 2020. 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. The image below shows how its cash balance has been changing over the last few years.

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How Is Hepion Pharmaceuticals’ Cash Burn Changing Over Time?

Because Hepion Pharmaceuticals isn’t currently generating revenue, we consider it an early-stage business. Nonetheless, we can still examine its cash burn trajectory as part of our assessment of its cash burn situation. Cash burn was pretty flat over the last year, which suggests that management are holding spending steady while the business advances its strategy. 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 Hard Would It Be For Hepion Pharmaceuticals To Raise More Cash For Growth?

Since its cash burn is increasing (albeit only slightly), Hepion Pharmaceuticals shareholders should still be mindful of the possibility it will require more cash in the future. 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 and fund 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).

Hepion Pharmaceuticals’ cash burn of US$12m is about 48% of its US$25m market capitalisation. From this perspective, it seems that the company spent a huge amount relative to its market value, and we’d be very wary of a painful capital raising.

How Risky Is Hepion Pharmaceuticals’ Cash Burn Situation?

On this analysis of Hepion Pharmaceuticals’ cash burn, we think its cash runway was reassuring, while its cash burn relative to its market cap has us a bit worried. 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. On another note, we conducted an in-depth investigation of the company, and identified 5 warning signs for Hepion Pharmaceuticals (2 are concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies, and this list of stocks growth stocks (according to analyst forecasts)

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.

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