Here's Why Vertex Resource Group (CVE:VTX) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden

July 19, 2022
  •  Updated
October 06, 2022
TSXV:VTX
Source: Shutterstock

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.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies Vertex Resource Group Ltd. (CVE:VTX) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. 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 thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Vertex Resource Group

What Is Vertex Resource Group's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Vertex Resource Group had CA$79.2m in debt in March 2022; about the same as the year before. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn't have much cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSXV:VTX Debt to Equity History July 19th 2022

How Strong Is Vertex Resource Group's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Vertex Resource Group had liabilities of CA$55.1m due within 12 months and liabilities of CA$79.8m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$463.0k as well as receivables valued at CA$57.5m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CA$77.0m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit casts a shadow over the CA$44.1m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Vertex Resource Group would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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). 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 Vertex Resource Group's debt to EBITDA ratio (4.5) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 0.51, suggesting high leverage. It seems that the business incurs large depreciation and amortisation charges, so maybe its debt load is heavier than it would first appear, since EBITDA is arguably a generous measure of earnings. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. However, the silver lining was that Vertex Resource Group achieved a positive EBIT of CA$3.1m in the last twelve months, an improvement on the prior year's loss. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Vertex Resource Group can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Vertex Resource Group actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last year. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

To be frank both Vertex Resource Group's interest cover and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Vertex Resource Group has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If everything goes well that may pay off but the downside of this debt is a greater risk of permanent losses. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 5 warning signs for Vertex Resource Group (of which 1 is significant!) you should know about.

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.

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

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