Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, ‘The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about… and every practical investor I know worries about.’ 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 Dollarama Inc. (TSE:DOL) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Dollarama’s Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at May 2019 Dollarama had debt of CA$1.89b, up from CA$1.79b in one year. On the flip side, it has CA$55.3m in cash leading to net debt of about CA$1.83b.
How Healthy Is Dollarama’s Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Dollarama had liabilities of CA$690.7m falling due within a year, and liabilities of CA$2.95b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$55.3m as well as receivables valued at CA$34.4m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CA$3.55b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Dollarama has a very large market capitalization of CA$15.5b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.
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). 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).
We’d say that Dollarama’s moderate net debt to EBITDA ratio ( being 2.1), indicates prudence when it comes to debt. And its commanding EBIT of 15.7 times its interest expense, implies the debt load is as light as a peacock feather. Dollarama grew its EBIT by 4.0% in the last year. Whilst that hardly knocks our socks off it is a positive when it comes to debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Dollarama can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you’re focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don’t cut it. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Dollarama produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 58% of its EBIT, about what we’d expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
Happily, Dollarama’s impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And we also thought its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a positive. Looking at all the aforementioned factors together, it strikes us that Dollarama can handle its debt fairly comfortably. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this one. We’d be motivated to research the stock further if we found out that Dollarama insiders have bought shares recently. If you would too, then you’re in luck, since today we’re sharing our list of reported insider transactions for free.
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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