These 4 Measures Indicate That AMCON Distributing (NYSEMKT:DIT) Is Using Debt In A Risky Way

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. As with many other companies AMCON Distributing Company (NYSEMKT:DIT) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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.

View our latest analysis for AMCON Distributing

How Much Debt Does AMCON Distributing Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2020 AMCON Distributing had US$59.6m of debt, an increase on US$36.2m, over one year. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn’t have much cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
AMEX:DIT Debt to Equity History July 22nd 2020

How Healthy Is AMCON Distributing’s Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, AMCON Distributing had liabilities of US$37.3m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$75.7m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$596.6k as well as receivables valued at US$33.6m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$78.7m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$36.9m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, AMCON Distributing would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

AMCON Distributing has a rather high debt to EBITDA ratio of 5.2 which suggests a meaningful debt load. But the good news is that it boasts fairly comforting interest cover of 4.5 times, suggesting it can responsibly service its obligations. The bad news is that AMCON Distributing saw its EBIT decline by 19% over the last year. If that sort of decline is not arrested, then the managing its debt will be harder than selling broccoli flavoured ice-cream for a premium. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But you can’t view debt in total isolation; since AMCON Distributing will need earnings to service that debt. So if you’re keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, AMCON Distributing burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.

Our View

On the face of it, AMCON Distributing’s conversion of EBIT to free cash flow left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. Having said that, its ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT isn’t such a worry. We think the chances that AMCON Distributing has too much debt a very significant. To our minds, that means the stock is rather high risk, and probably one to avoid; but to each their own (investing) style. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. To that end, you should learn about the 5 warning signs we’ve spotted with AMCON Distributing (including 2 which is are potentially serious) .

If you’re interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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