Stock Analysis

Is Martinrea International (TSE:MRE) A Risky Investment?

TSX:MRE
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David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' 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 note that Martinrea International Inc. (TSE:MRE) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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.

See our latest analysis for Martinrea International

How Much Debt Does Martinrea International Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of September 2022 Martinrea International had CA$1.09b of debt, an increase on CA$1.02b, over one year. However, it also had CA$158.5m in cash, and so its net debt is CA$928.2m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:MRE Debt to Equity History January 27th 2023

How Healthy Is Martinrea International's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Martinrea International had liabilities of CA$1.50b due within a year, and liabilities of CA$1.34b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of CA$158.5m and CA$853.4m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling CA$1.82b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the CA$1.03b company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Martinrea International would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). 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 has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.6 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.5 times. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. The good news is that Martinrea International grew its EBIT a smooth 34% over the last twelve months. Like a mother's loving embrace of a newborn that sort of growth builds resilience, putting the company in a stronger position to manage its 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 Martinrea International'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.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Martinrea International reported free cash flow worth 5.3% 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

Mulling over Martinrea International's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. 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. 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. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Martinrea International .

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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

Find out whether Martinrea International 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.

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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.