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.' 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 Alara Resources Limited (ASX:AUQ) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
When Is Debt A Problem?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
What Is Alara Resources's Net Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of December 2021 Alara Resources had AU$6.89m of debt, an increase on AU$620.0k, over one year. However, it also had AU$3.24m in cash, and so its net debt is AU$3.66m.
How Healthy Is Alara Resources' Balance Sheet?
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Alara Resources had liabilities of AU$1.61m due within 12 months and liabilities of AU$6.89m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of AU$3.24m and AU$154.1k worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total AU$5.11m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Given Alara Resources has a market capitalization of AU$45.9m, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is Alara Resources's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.
Given its lack of meaningful operating revenue, investors are probably hoping that Alara Resources finds some valuable resources, before it runs out of money.
While Alara Resources's falling revenue is about as heartwarming as a wet blanket, arguably its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss is even less appealing. Indeed, it lost AU$930k at the EBIT level. Considering that alongside the liabilities mentioned above does not give us much confidence that company should be using so much debt. So we think its balance sheet is a little strained, though not beyond repair. However, it doesn't help that it burned through AU$8.7m of cash over the last year. So in short it's a really risky stock. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For instance, we've identified 5 warning signs for Alara Resources (2 are a bit unpleasant) 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.