Stock Analysis

Is Unisync (TSE:UNI) A Risky Investment?

TSX:UNI
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Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that '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 Unisync Corp. (TSE:UNI) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Unisync

What Is Unisync's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2020, Unisync had CA$31.4m of debt, up from CA$27.4m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. And it doesn't have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:UNI Debt to Equity History December 18th 2020

How Strong Is Unisync's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Unisync had liabilities of CA$40.5m due within 12 months, and liabilities of CA$14.1m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had CA$307.9k in cash and CA$7.41m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CA$46.9m.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's CA$45.4m market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Unisync shareholders face the double whammy of a high net debt to EBITDA ratio (9.0), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 0.93 times the interest expense. The debt burden here is substantial. However, the silver lining was that Unisync achieved a positive EBIT of CA$2.3m 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 it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Unisync'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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it is important to check how much of its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) converts to actual free cash flow. During the last year, Unisync burned a lot of cash. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

On the face of it, Unisync's interest cover left us tentative about the stock, and its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least its EBIT growth rate is not so bad. Taking into account all the aforementioned factors, it looks like Unisync has too much debt. That sort of riskiness is ok for some, but it certainly doesn't float our boat. 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. Like risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 5 warning signs for Unisync (of which 2 are a bit unpleasant!) you should know about.

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. 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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