We Think CanWel Building Materials Group (TSE:CWX) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

Warren Buffett famously said, ‘Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.’ When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies CanWel Building Materials Group Ltd. (TSE:CWX) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for CanWel Building Materials Group

How Much Debt Does CanWel Building Materials Group Carry?

As you can see below, CanWel Building Materials Group had CA$322.9m of debt at June 2020, down from CA$412.8m a year prior. And it doesn’t have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:CWX Debt to Equity History September 10th 2020

How Healthy Is CanWel Building Materials Group’s Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, CanWel Building Materials Group had liabilities of CA$179.7m due within 12 months, and liabilities of CA$452.7m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of CA$4.32m and CA$235.2m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total CA$392.8m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of CA$537.0m, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on CanWel Building Materials Group’s use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be 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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

CanWel Building Materials Group has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.5 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 2.6 times. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn’t want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. The good news is that CanWel Building Materials Group grew its EBIT a smooth 32% over the last twelve months. Like the milk of human kindness that sort of growth increases resilience, making the company more capable of managing debt. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine CanWel Building Materials Group’s ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you’re focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, CanWel Building Materials Group actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

CanWel Building Materials Group’s conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a real positive on this analysis, as was its EBIT growth rate. In contrast, our confidence was undermined by its apparent struggle to cover its interest expense with its EBIT. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that CanWel Building Materials Group is managing its debt quite well. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example, we’ve discovered 3 warning signs for CanWel Building Materials Group (1 makes us a bit uncomfortable!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

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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