Shares of Novavax (NVAX) have been jumping in the past month, and they are up around 25% since April. There’s an influx of money coming its way due to unused COVID shots in Canada, which means the company’s cash situation will improve. But before you rush out to buy the stock, there are a couple of concerning numbers you should consider.
Novavax burned through $325 million in cash last quarter
Novavax’s operations aren’t in great shape. The business is incurring significant expenses, and its top line isn’t strong enough to absorb them.
On May 9, the company reported its earnings results for the first three months of the year. During that period, the company used up $325.6 million in cash just to fund its day-to-day operating activities. This includes more than $230 million in payables and other liabilities. There were no large one-time outflows of cash to justify the big increase from the $88.5 million in cash burn it incurred in the prior-year period.
As of the end of the period, the company’s cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash balance was at just $636.9 million. A couple more quarters of this type of cash burn and Novavax might be in desperation mode, looking to raise money either through debt or the equity markets. And what’s concerning is that this rate of cash burn may not necessarily let up anytime soon.
The company has $1.9 billion in current liabilities
Even after paying all those bills last quarter, as of the end of March, Novavax’s total current liabilities stood at over $1.9 billion. Current liabilities include all obligations that the company has to pay within the next 12 months. This includes accounts payables, accrued expenses, deferred revenue, and other liabilities.
But regardless of the type of obligation or how it incurred it, Novavax has a lot of money that it needs to come up with to pay these obligations over the course of the next year. Learning that the company will get $350 million from Canada due to canceled COVID shots will help Novavax with its cash problems, but it doesn’t solve the bigger problems at hand, namely that the company doesn’t have a viable business right now. And it needs much more money to get out of the hole it’s currently in. As of the end of March, the company’s total current assets were worth just $971 million.
Demand for COVID vaccines has slowed down significantly. Even top pharmacy retailer Walgreens Boots Alliance is seeing the effects of that this year with some uninspiring numbers to start 2023. While Novavax has products in its pipeline, including NanoFlu, which could help improve its growth prospects, there may not be enough there to save the business.
Novavax did say earlier this year that it faced the risk that it wouldn’t be able to pay its bills, and that’s a very real possibility. It may still be able to raise cash to help stave that off, but it doesn’t change the fact that Novavax is an extremely risky stock to be holding right now.
Investors should seek out safer growth stocks
While Novavax’s stock has been rallying of late, it’s still down 84% over the past 12 months. It may appear to be at a cheap price today, but there’s good reason for it — the business may not survive.
Investors are better off looking at other growth stocks, ones that have better near-term growth prospects and that aren’t burning through nearly as much cash as Novavax is. The healthcare stock is highly volatile, and although there’s a chance to earn some significant gains if the company succeeds, I believe there’s a higher probability that investors who buy the stock today will incur large losses.
There isn’t a whole lot of reason to be optimistic about Novavax’s future right now.