Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that ‘Volatility is far from synonymous with risk. It’s only natural to consider a company’s balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. We can see that Skipper Limited (NSE:SKIPPER) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can’t easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well – and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
What Is Skipper’s Net Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Skipper had ₹6.22b of debt in September 2019, down from ₹6.80b, one year before. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn’t have much cash.
A Look At Skipper’s Liabilities
According to the last reported balance sheet, Skipper had liabilities of ₹8.39b due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₹2.00b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of ₹114.5m and ₹4.95b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₹5.33b.
This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of ₹5.35b. This suggests shareholders would heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.
In order to size up a company’s debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
While Skipper’s debt to EBITDA ratio (3.4) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 1.7, suggesting high leverage. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Worse, Skipper’s EBIT was down 31% over the last year. If earnings keep going like that over the long term, it has a snowball’s chance in hell of paying off that debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Skipper’s ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it’s worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Skipper recorded free cash flow of 46% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we’d expect. That’s not great, when it comes to paying down debt.
On the face of it, Skipper’s interest cover left us tentative about the stock, and its EBIT growth rate was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is not so bad. We’re quite clear that we consider Skipper to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. For this reason we’re pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. Above most other metrics, we think its important to track how fast earnings per share is growing, if at all. If you’ve also come to that realization, you’re in luck, because today you can view this interactive graph of Skipper’s earnings per share history for free.
If, after all that, you’re more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.
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