Stock Analysis

We Think Martinrea International (TSE:MRE) Is Taking Some Risk With Its Debt

TSX:MRE
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 Martinrea International Inc. (TSE:MRE) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

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What Is Martinrea International's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Martinrea International had CA$1.08b in debt in June 2023; about the same as the year before. However, it also had CA$145.8m in cash, and so its net debt is CA$937.4m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:MRE Debt to Equity History October 19th 2023

A Look At Martinrea International's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Martinrea International had liabilities of CA$1.45b due within a year, and liabilities of CA$1.35b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$145.8m as well as receivables valued at CA$920.5m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CA$1.74b.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the CA$919.5m 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.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Martinrea International has net debt worth 1.8 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 4.3 times the interest expense. While that doesn't worry us too much, it does suggest the interest payments are somewhat of a burden. Pleasingly, Martinrea International is growing its EBIT faster than former Australian PM Bob Hawke downs a yard glass, boasting a 360% gain in the last twelve months. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. In the last three years, Martinrea International created free cash flow amounting to 7.6% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. 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 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. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Martinrea International .

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.

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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.