Here is the earnings forecast to 2026 for Pilbara Minerals shares

Should investors be excited about the lithium stock's outlook?

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Owners of Pilbara Minerals Ltd (ASX: PLS) shares saw considerable profit generation in 2022. But things have gone downhill since then as the lithium price slumped — it's no wonder the Pilbara Minerals share price has dropped around 30% since November 2022, as we can see on the chart below.

The tricky thing about estimating profit generation for ASX mining shares is that it's quite dependent on what happens with the commodity price. ASX lithium shares have taken a battering recently because investors are now expecting lower profitability and smaller cash flow.

But how much lower could profit be in future results compared to FY23? Could reality be better than what the market is fearing? Let's take a look at one set of forecasts.

FY24 estimates

In its FY24 half-year result, the ASX lithium share reported that its statutory net profit after tax (NPAT) plunged 82% to $220 million after its realised price for lithium production sank 67% to US$1,645 per tonne.

Broker UBS has forecast that Pilbara Minerals might make $264 million of net profit in FY24 on revenue of $1.1 billion. The broker isn't expecting the ASX lithium share to pay a dividend in FY24.

FY25 projection

Owners of Pilbara Minerals shares may be disappointed to hear that the FY25 profit projection is even worse than FY24.

UBS has forecast that net profit could halve again to $131 million amid the low lithium prices and the large investment program that Pilbara Minerals is working on to increase its exposure to the lithium supply chain. The FY25 revenue is projected to be $962 million, according to the broker.

FY26 forecast

The 2026 financial year might be the year that the ASX lithium share sees a sizeable increase in profit.

According to UBS, the business could generate A$1.8 billion of revenue and make $582 million of net profit, which would translate into earnings per share (EPS) of 19 cents. If it achieves this forecast, the Pilbara Minerals share price will be valued at around 20x FY26's estimated earnings.

The business is also projected to start paying a dividend again. In FY26, the annual pay might be 7 cents per share, which would be more than 70% smaller than the FY23 payout.

Interestingly, UBS thinks that the P1000 project, where the miner wants to reach 1mt of production, will become P1100 based on mining rates, grades, recoveries and a targeted grade for the production of between 5.2% to 5.3%.

Pilbara Minerals said it was not looking to slow any progress in response to low lithium prices.

Motley Fool contributor Tristan Harrison has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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