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 Korab Resources Limited (ASX:KOR) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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 step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is Korab Resources's Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2021 Korab Resources had debt of AU$2.93m, up from AU$2.40m in one year. However, it also had AU$1.57m in cash, and so its net debt is AU$1.36m.
How Strong Is Korab Resources' Balance Sheet?
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Korab Resources had liabilities of AU$1.08m due within 12 months and liabilities of AU$2.18m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had AU$1.57m in cash and AU$41.1k in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total AU$1.65m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Given Korab Resources has a market capitalization of AU$15.8m, 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.
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). 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).
Even though Korab Resources's debt is only 2.2, its interest cover is really very low at 1.7. This does suggest the company is paying fairly high interest rates. Either way there's no doubt the stock is using meaningful leverage. Importantly, Korab Resources grew its EBIT by 44% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Korab Resources's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, Korab Resources burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.
Korab Resources's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and interest cover definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But the good news is it seems to be able to grow its EBIT with ease. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Korab Resources is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for Korab Resources (of which 1 can't be ignored!) you should know about.
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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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.