- Basic Materials
Here's Why Adbri (ASX:ABC) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden
Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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. Importantly, Adbri Limited (ASX:ABC) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. 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 Adbri
What Is Adbri's Net Debt?
As you can see below, at the end of December 2022, Adbri had AU$716.3m of debt, up from AU$562.1m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have AU$139.9m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about AU$576.4m.
A Look At Adbri's Liabilities
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Adbri had liabilities of AU$266.9m due within 12 months and liabilities of AU$955.4m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of AU$139.9m as well as receivables valued at AU$255.0m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling AU$827.4m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of AU$1.06b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Adbri's use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.
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).
Adbri has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.2 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.8 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. Even worse, Adbri saw its EBIT tank 46% over the last 12 months. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Adbri'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. Looking at the most recent three years, Adbri recorded free cash flow of 25% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.
We'd go so far as to say Adbri's EBIT growth rate was disappointing. And furthermore, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow also fails to instill confidence. We're quite clear that we consider Adbri to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example - Adbri has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.
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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.
Adbri Limited manufactures and distributes construction materials in Australia.
Undervalued with mediocre balance sheet.