Stock Analysis

These 4 Measures Indicate That Electrovaya (TSE:ELVA) Is Using Debt Extensively

TSX:ELVA
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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. Importantly, Electrovaya Inc. (TSE:ELVA) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Electrovaya

How Much Debt Does Electrovaya Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2023 Electrovaya had debt of US$16.9m, up from US$16.1m in one year. However, it also had US$723.0k in cash, and so its net debt is US$16.2m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:ELVA Debt to Equity History December 5th 2023

A Look At Electrovaya's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Electrovaya had liabilities of US$25.1m due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.52m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$723.0k as well as receivables valued at US$10.1m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$16.7m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Given Electrovaya has a market capitalization of US$85.3m, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse.

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).

Electrovaya shareholders face the double whammy of a high net debt to EBITDA ratio (46.1), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 0.048 times the interest expense. The debt burden here is substantial. One redeeming factor for Electrovaya is that it turned last year's EBIT loss into a gain of US$119k, over the last twelve months. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Electrovaya 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. During the last year, Electrovaya burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.

Our View

To be frank both Electrovaya's interest cover and its track record of converting EBIT to free cash flow make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least its level of total liabilities is not so bad. Looking at the bigger picture, it seems clear to us that Electrovaya's use of debt is creating risks for the company. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Electrovaya (of which 1 is significant!) you should know about.

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.

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

Find out whether Electrovaya 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.