Stock Analysis

Is Midway (ASX:MWY) A Risky Investment?

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ASX:MWY
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. Importantly, Midway Limited (ASX:MWY) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

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What Is Midway's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Midway had AU$40.3m of debt in December 2020, down from AU$50.4m, one year before. However, it also had AU$8.04m in cash, and so its net debt is AU$32.2m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ASX:MWY Debt to Equity History June 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. On the other hand, it had cash of AU$8.04m and AU$14.6m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by AU$104.2m.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of AU$83.0m, we think shareholders really should watch Midway's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. 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. In large part that's due to the company's significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. Sadly, Midway's EBIT actually dropped 8.6% in the last year. If earnings continue on that decline then managing that debt will be difficult like delivering hot soup on a unicycle. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Midway can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Midway produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 66% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

Mulling over Midway's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Once we consider all the factors above, together, it seems to us that Midway's debt is making it a bit risky. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we'd generally feel more comfortable with less leverage. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. We've identified 1 warning sign with Midway , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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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