Invitae (NVTA -13.85%) investors have lost 84.6% of their money over the last three years, and there might not be any good news coming for a while. Amid an ambitious restructuring plan that'll see the company slash its staff and shake up the management team, the company currently only anticipates having the cash to survive through the end of 2024.
But despite its seemingly dire straits, could it still be too late for people to buy its stock? It's more likely than it sounds, so let's investigate further.
Why it's reasonable to wonder if it's too late to buy shares
The most obvious reason why it might be too late to invest in Invitae is that it's blatantly under pressure, and conditions won't improve anytime soon. It hasn't been profitable on a quarterly basis for the last five years, and its quarterly gross margin has barely budged while its debt load has ballooned to over $1.7 billion. Given that it sells its genetic tests directly to consumers and also to healthcare providers, reaching profitability could be a matter of hiking prices, except that could also destroy demand in turn. Still, the fact that the company's revenue has continued to grow while it hemorrhages money isn't much of a consolation to shareholders, nor is there any way that it might grow its way out of being unprofitable and needing more money to continue operating.
Presently, it has $726.7 million in cash and equivalents, and in 2021 its operating expenses totaled more than $890 million. That isn't as bad as it might seem, as its net losses in 2021 were only around $379 million -- but it's clear that something needs to change immediately to keep the lights on over the next few years.
Management's plan to address the issue is to stop offering less-profitable tests and to focus more on its oncology and women's health segments. Between that and the layoffs, the business touts that it expects to keep growing its top line at a rate ranging from 15% to 25% after 2023 when its restructuring plan should be well underway. But, once again, revenue growth isn't going to solve the company's problems, and Invitae is on a rapidly approaching deadline when it'll run out of money. The planned cuts might not be enough, especially if profitability doesn't rise.
Even if it manages to keep getting more people to buy its genetic tests, it hasn't yet demonstrated that it's capable of squeezing enough money out of each customer to break even. Whereas in the second quarter, it made $479 in revenue per patient, it made $476 per patient in the fourth quarter of last year -- hardly a trend that investors can bet on carrying the day moving forward. And all of the above points to the best time to buy this stock as being firmly in the past.
If you're willing to accept the (substantial) risks, there's no time like the present
The gloomy picture I just painted isn't the final word on Invitae's future. In fact, there's one big development that could lead the stock to new heights over the next few years, provided that its cost cuts go as planned: There will be a new CEO. Its COO, Kenneth D. Knight, assumed the role of CEO on July 18, and one of its former CEOs also returned to become the chairman of the board of directors. The leadership shuffle won't exactly result in a breath of fresh air for investors seeking something different, but it could help to grease the wheels of change as the company restructures itself.
Plus, it won't take too long to see how the restructuring plan is leading to a more sustainable state of affairs. Management estimates that its non-GAAP (adjusted) gross margin will rise by around 7 percentage points to reach a margin of near 50% or higher between the end of 2022 and the close of 2023. And its operating expenses have been falling as a percentage of revenue for every quarter since the third quarter of 2021, though they're still well above 100%.
In light of the ongoing changes and trends in the right direction, daring investors who are comfortable with buying shares of turnaround plays will find themselves just on time for a purchase. There's no guarantee that Invitae will successfully trim its operations enough to become profitable by the time it runs out of money in 2024, and it's fully possible that investors will be sitting on stiff losses for quite some time. On the other hand, sentiment about this stock is pessimistic at the moment, and there's money to be made by going against the grain and being right. If you aren't the gambling type, however, it's probably too risky (and too late) to buy this stock for at least a few years, as its long-term performance is far too up in the air right now.