Stock Analysis

Here's Why Bapcor (ASX:BAP) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

  •  Updated
ASX:BAP
Source: Shutterstock

Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. Importantly, Bapcor Limited (ASX:BAP) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Bapcor

What Is Bapcor's Debt?

As you can see below, Bapcor had AU$170.3m of debt at December 2020, down from AU$441.4m a year prior. However, it does have AU$59.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about AU$111.3m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ASX:BAP Debt to Equity History June 22nd 2021

A Look At Bapcor's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Bapcor had liabilities of AU$360.3m due within a year, and liabilities of AU$312.6m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had AU$59.0m in cash and AU$147.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling AU$466.4m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Of course, Bapcor has a market capitalization of AU$2.80b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Bapcor has net debt of just 0.58 times EBITDA, indicating that it is certainly not a reckless borrower. And this view is supported by the solid interest coverage, with EBIT coming in at 10.0 times the interest expense over the last year. Also good is that Bapcor grew its EBIT at 13% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Bapcor's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, Bapcor produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 64% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

The good news is that Bapcor's demonstrated ability handle its debt, based on its EBITDA, delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And the good news does not stop there, as its interest cover also supports that impression! When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like Bapcor is pretty sensible with its use of debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. 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. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Bapcor that you should be aware of.

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.

When trading Bapcor or any other investment, use the platform considered by many to be the Professional's Gateway to the Worlds Market, Interactive Brokers. You get the lowest-cost* trading on stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds worldwide from a single integrated account. Promoted


Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Bapcor is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

View the Free Analysis