Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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 can see that Boyd Group Services Inc. (TSE:BYD) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Boyd Group Services Carry?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Boyd Group Services had US$238.3m of debt in June 2021, down from US$500.1m, one year before. On the flip side, it has US$35.6m in cash leading to net debt of about US$202.7m.
How Strong Is Boyd Group Services' Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Boyd Group Services had liabilities of US$340.6m due within a year, and liabilities of US$656.4m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$35.6m in cash and US$89.6m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$871.7m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Boyd Group Services has a market capitalization of US$4.18b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.
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).
While Boyd Group Services's low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.3 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 3.3 times last year does give us pause. But the interest payments are certainly sufficient to have us thinking about how affordable its debt is. One way Boyd Group Services could vanquish its debt would be if it stops borrowing more but continues to grow EBIT at around 18%, as it did over the last year. 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 Boyd Group Services'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, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Boyd Group Services actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.
Boyd Group Services's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its interest cover. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like Boyd Group Services is pretty sensible with its use of debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example - Boyd Group Services has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.
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.
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