We Think Viohalco (EBR:VIO) Is Taking Some Risk With Its Debt

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 20, 2021
ENXTBR:VIO
Source: Shutterstock

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We can see that Viohalco S.A. (EBR:VIO) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. 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. 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.

View our latest analysis for Viohalco

What Is Viohalco's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2021, Viohalco had €1.90b of debt, up from €1.81b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of €267.9m, its net debt is less, at about €1.63b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ENXTBR:VIO Debt to Equity History November 21st 2021

How Strong Is Viohalco's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Viohalco had liabilities of €1.94b falling due within a year, and liabilities of €1.20b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of €267.9m and €731.8m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total €2.14b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit casts a shadow over the €1.23b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. At the end of the day, Viohalco would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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.

Viohalco has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.0 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.1 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. However, it should be some comfort for shareholders to recall that Viohalco actually grew its EBIT by a hefty 163%, over the last 12 months. If it can keep walking that path it will be in a position to shed its debt with relative ease. 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 Viohalco 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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, Viohalco reported free cash flow worth 4.1% of its EBIT, which is really quite low. That limp level of cash conversion undermines its ability to manage and pay down debt.

Our View

We'd go so far as to say Viohalco's level of total liabilities was disappointing. But at least it's pretty decent at growing its EBIT; that's encouraging. We're quite clear that we consider Viohalco to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 1 warning sign for Viohalco you should be aware of.

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

Discounted cash flow calculation for every stock

Simply Wall St does a detailed discounted cash flow calculation every 6 hours for every stock on the market, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any company just search here. It’s FREE.

Make Confident Investment Decisions

Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.