Stock Analysis

Is Mayfield Childcare (ASX:MFD) Using Too Much Debt?

ASX:MFD
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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.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies Mayfield Childcare Limited (ASX:MFD) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Mayfield Childcare

What Is Mayfield Childcare's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Mayfield Childcare had debt of AU$8.49m at the end of December 2021, a reduction from AU$9.90m over a year. On the flip side, it has AU$2.27m in cash leading to net debt of about AU$6.22m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ASX:MFD Debt to Equity History March 29th 2022

How Strong Is Mayfield Childcare's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Mayfield Childcare had liabilities of AU$14.5m due within 12 months and liabilities of AU$146.5m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of AU$2.27m as well as receivables valued at AU$2.05m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling AU$156.7m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the AU$85.6m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. After all, Mayfield Childcare would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Looking at its net debt to EBITDA of 0.85 and interest cover of 4.9 times, it seems to us that Mayfield Childcare is probably using debt in a pretty reasonable way. But the interest payments are certainly sufficient to have us thinking about how affordable its debt is. Mayfield Childcare grew its EBIT by 2.6% in the last year. That's far from incredible but it is a good thing, when it comes to paying off 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 Mayfield Childcare'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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Mayfield Childcare actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

Mayfield Childcare's level of total liabilities 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. Taking the abovementioned factors together we do think Mayfield Childcare's debt poses some risks to the business. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example, we've discovered 5 warning signs for Mayfield Childcare (1 can't be ignored!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Mayfield Childcare is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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.