Stock Analysis

Is Finning International (TSE:FTT) Using Too Much Debt?

TSX:FTT
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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 Finning International Inc. (TSE:FTT) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

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What Is Finning International's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of September 2022 Finning International had CA$2.03b of debt, an increase on CA$1.53b, over one year. However, it also had CA$120.0m in cash, and so its net debt is CA$1.91b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:FTT Debt to Equity History December 26th 2022

A Look At Finning International's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Finning International had liabilities of CA$3.20b due within 12 months, and liabilities of CA$1.38b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$120.0m as well as receivables valued at CA$1.73b due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling CA$2.73b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit isn't so bad because Finning International is worth CA$5.05b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

We'd say that Finning International's moderate net debt to EBITDA ratio ( being 2.1), indicates prudence when it comes to debt. And its strong interest cover of 10.3 times, makes us even more comfortable. It is well worth noting that Finning International's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 50% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier 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 Finning International's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Finning International recorded free cash flow worth 67% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

The good news is that Finning International's demonstrated ability to grow its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its level of total liabilities. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like Finning International is pretty sensible with its use of debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. 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 Finning International is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 2 of those make us uncomfortable...

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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

Find out whether Finning 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.