Stock Analysis

Does Martinrea International (TSE:MRE) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

TSX:MRE
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The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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. We can see that Martinrea International Inc. (TSE:MRE) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

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What Is Martinrea International's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of March 2023 Martinrea International had CA$1.11b of debt, an increase on CA$1.02b, over one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of CA$156.6m, its net debt is less, at about CA$955.9m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:MRE Debt to Equity History June 8th 2023

A Look At Martinrea International's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Martinrea International had liabilities of CA$1.52b due within 12 months, and liabilities of CA$1.38b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$156.6m as well as receivables valued at CA$932.8m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CA$1.81b.

This deficit casts a shadow over the CA$968.7m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Martinrea International would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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).

Martinrea International's net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 1.9 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 4.2 times last year. While these numbers do not alarm us, it's worth noting that the cost of the company's debt is having a real impact. Pleasingly, Martinrea International is growing its EBIT faster than former Australian PM Bob Hawke downs a yard glass, boasting a 422% gain in the last twelve months. 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 Martinrea International 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Considering the last three years, Martinrea International actually recorded a cash outflow, overall. Debt is usually more expensive, and almost always more risky in the hands of a company with negative free cash flow. Shareholders ought to hope for an improvement.

Our View

To be frank both Martinrea International's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least it's pretty decent at growing its EBIT; that's encouraging. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Martinrea International has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. 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. Be aware that Martinrea International is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , you should know about...

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.

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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.