I thought I had seen all the financial acronyms the market could come up with, and then American Superconductor
The small-cap power transport specialist with the decidedly high-tech name decided to lean on a new measure it dubbed EBITDAS to put its just-released results in a nicer light. That is, as you might already have guessed, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, and stock-based compensation. It's far from the first use of a metric like that, since nearly every company seems to want to exclude its stock bonuses these days, but I had never seen it codified and presumably given legitimacy in this way before.
Some digging uncovered a few precedents, such as Sciele Pharma
I think every company should just own up to its stock-based compensation expenses, and if company execs don't like the numbers, then do away with the share-based awards once and for all. The only thing achieved with a plethora of half-baked numbers like these is that investors are left wondering which figures to trust and use for their evaluations of the business.
That technicality aside, American Superconductor is still losing money on any measure you choose. Fellow Fool Rich Smith noted that the company diluted its stock by 24% in a single month, and that could actually have been the saving grace here -- but that dilution happened in July, after the close of this reporting period, so there was "only" 7.5% of dilution to take down the net loss-per-share hit. This time, it was $0.27 of red ink per stub, 35% worse than last year's $0.20, whereas the net loss got 44% heavier.
What about the EBITDAS total, I hear you cry? That was swell, of course -- only a $5.3 million loss, which translates to a loss of $0.15 per share, better than the $0.17 adjusted loss per share last year. So that tricky number has the desired effect, which is to make the company look better than it actually is. Nice job, fellas. And yes, I'm being sarcastic.
Read up on the red-headed stepchildren of the income statement:
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure always deals aboveboard, above the table, and above the belt.