Stock Analysis

Here's Why Magontec (ASX:MGL) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden

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ASX:MGL
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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 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 Magontec Limited (ASX:MGL) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

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What Is Magontec's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Magontec had AU$16.6m of debt in December 2020, down from AU$19.6m, one year before. On the flip side, it has AU$4.96m in cash leading to net debt of about AU$11.7m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ASX:MGL Debt to Equity History May 5th 2021

A Look At Magontec's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Magontec had liabilities of AU$24.7m falling due within a year, and liabilities of AU$21.4m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of AU$4.96m as well as receivables valued at AU$22.2m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling AU$18.9m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of AU$24.2m, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Magontec's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

While we wouldn't worry about Magontec's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.0, we think its super-low interest cover of 0.26 times is a sign of high leverage. It seems that the business incurs large depreciation and amortisation charges, so maybe its debt load is heavier than it would first appear, since EBITDA is arguably a generous measure of earnings. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. However, the silver lining was that Magontec achieved a positive EBIT of AU$136k in the last twelve months, an improvement on the prior year's loss. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Magontec will need earnings to service that debt. 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it is important to check how much of its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) converts to actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Magontec actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last year. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

Magontec's interest cover and net debt to EBITDA 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 Magontec 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. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Magontec (of which 1 is potentially serious!) you should know about.

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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