New Century Resources (ASX:NCZ) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

Simply Wall St
December 07, 2021
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David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' 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. Importantly, New Century Resources Limited (ASX:NCZ) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for New Century Resources

What Is New Century Resources's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that New Century Resources had debt of AU$45.9m at the end of June 2021, a reduction from AU$90.9m over a year. However, because it has a cash reserve of AU$35.7m, its net debt is less, at about AU$10.2m.

ASX:NCZ Debt to Equity History December 7th 2021

How Strong Is New Century Resources' Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that New Century Resources had liabilities of AU$116.7m falling due within a year, and liabilities of AU$227.1m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of AU$35.7m and AU$6.10m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling AU$302.0m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of AU$257.1m, we think shareholders really should watch New Century Resources'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.

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.

Given net debt is only 0.19 times EBITDA, it is initially surprising to see that New Century Resources's EBIT has low interest coverage of 0.077 times. So one way or the other, it's clear the debt levels are not trivial. Notably, New Century Resources made a loss at the EBIT level, last year, but improved that to positive EBIT of AU$1.5m in the last twelve months. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since New Century Resources will need earnings to service that debt. 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 it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, New Century Resources actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last year. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

While New Century Resources's interest cover has us nervous. To wit both its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and net debt to EBITDA were encouraging signs. We think that New Century Resources's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. 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. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. To that end, you should learn about the 2 warning signs we've spotted with New Century Resources (including 1 which is a bit unpleasant) .

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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