CTI Logistics (ASX:CLX) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 20, 2021
ASX:CLX
Source: Shutterstock

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.' 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. As with many other companies CTI Logistics Limited (ASX:CLX) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for CTI Logistics

What Is CTI Logistics's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that CTI Logistics had debt of AU$31.9m at the end of June 2021, a reduction from AU$42.8m over a year. On the flip side, it has AU$6.49m in cash leading to net debt of about AU$25.4m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ASX:CLX Debt to Equity History December 20th 2021

A Look At CTI Logistics' Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that CTI Logistics had liabilities of AU$44.4m due within a year, and liabilities of AU$77.1m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of AU$6.49m and AU$31.4m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling AU$83.6m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's AU$73.0m market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution.

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.

Looking at its net debt to EBITDA of 1.2 and interest cover of 3.4 times, it seems to us that CTI Logistics is probably using debt in a pretty reasonable way. But the interest payments are certainly sufficient to have us thinking about how affordable its debt is. Notably, CTI Logistics's EBIT launched higher than Elon Musk, gaining a whopping 137% on last year. 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 CTI Logistics will need earnings to service that debt. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

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. Happily for any shareholders, CTI Logistics actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

CTI Logistics's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a real positive on this analysis, as was its EBIT growth rate. In contrast, our confidence was undermined by its apparent struggle to handle its total liabilities. Considering this range of data points, we think CTI Logistics is in a good position to manage its debt levels. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. We've identified 4 warning signs with CTI Logistics (at least 1 which makes us a bit uncomfortable) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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