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. We can see that Domain Holdings Australia Limited (ASX:DHG) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Domain Holdings Australia Carry?
As you can see below, at the end of December 2021, Domain Holdings Australia had AU$219.0m of debt, up from AU$172.1m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had AU$52.6m in cash, and so its net debt is AU$166.4m.
How Healthy Is Domain Holdings Australia's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Domain Holdings Australia had liabilities of AU$76.9m due within a year, and liabilities of AU$317.2m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of AU$52.6m as well as receivables valued at AU$50.1m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by AU$291.4m.
Of course, Domain Holdings Australia has a market capitalization of AU$2.31b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.
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). 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).
Domain Holdings Australia's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 2.0 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its commanding EBIT of 11.5 times its interest expense, implies the debt load is as light as a peacock feather. It is well worth noting that Domain Holdings Australia's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 34% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier to manage its debt. 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 Domain Holdings Australia 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 we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Domain Holdings Australia recorded free cash flow worth 78% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.
Domain Holdings Australia's EBIT growth rate suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. Overall, we don't think Domain Holdings Australia is taking any bad risks, as its debt load seems modest. So the balance sheet looks pretty healthy, to us. 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. For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Domain Holdings Australia that you should be aware of before investing here.
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.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
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.