Stock Analysis

Here's Why Midway (ASX:MWY) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden

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ASX:MWY
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 Midway Limited (ASX:MWY) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

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What Is Midway's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Midway had debt of AU$40.3m at the end of December 2020, a reduction from AU$50.4m over a year. However, it does have AU$8.04m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about AU$32.2m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ASX:MWY Debt to Equity History March 1st 2021

How Healthy Is Midway's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Midway had liabilities of AU$41.9m due within a year, and liabilities of AU$84.9m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of AU$8.04m as well as receivables valued at AU$14.6m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total AU$104.2m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's AU$80.8m market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Midway's net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 1.7 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 3.4 times last year. 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. Unfortunately, Midway saw its EBIT slide 8.6% in the last twelve months. If earnings continue on that decline then managing that debt will be difficult like delivering hot soup on a unicycle. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Midway can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Midway recorded free cash flow worth 66% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

We'd go so far as to say Midway's level of total liabilities was disappointing. But at least it's pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that's encouraging. Once we consider all the factors above, together, it seems to us that Midway's debt is making it a bit risky. Some people like that sort of risk, but we're mindful of the potential pitfalls, so we'd probably prefer it carry less debt. 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 1 warning sign for Midway 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.

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