- Commercial Services
Does Cleanaway Waste Management (ASX:CWY) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?
The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. As with many other companies Cleanaway Waste Management Limited (ASX:CWY) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
See our latest analysis for Cleanaway Waste Management
What Is Cleanaway Waste Management's Debt?
As you can see below, Cleanaway Waste Management had AU$993.4m of debt at December 2022, down from AU$1.07b a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of AU$124.9m, its net debt is less, at about AU$868.5m.
How Strong Is Cleanaway Waste Management's Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Cleanaway Waste Management had liabilities of AU$843.9m falling due within a year, and liabilities of AU$2.19b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had AU$124.9m in cash and AU$589.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling AU$2.31b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Cleanaway Waste Management has a market capitalization of AU$5.54b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
While Cleanaway Waste Management has a quite reasonable net debt to EBITDA multiple of 1.9, its interest cover seems weak, at 2.2. In large part that's it has so much depreciation and amortisation. While companies often boast that these charges are non-cash, most such businesses will therefore require ongoing investment (that is not expensed.) In any case, it's safe to say the company has meaningful debt. Unfortunately, Cleanaway Waste Management's EBIT flopped 19% over the last four quarters. 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 ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Cleanaway Waste Management 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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Cleanaway Waste Management generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 85% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
Cleanaway Waste Management's EBIT growth rate and interest cover definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But the good news is it seems to be able to convert EBIT to free cash flow with ease. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Cleanaway Waste Management is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. 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 instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Cleanaway Waste Management that you should be aware of.
When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
Cleanaway Waste Management
Cleanaway Waste Management Limited provides waste management, industrial, and environmental services in Australia.
Moderate growth potential with imperfect balance sheet.