Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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 Rocky Mountain Liquor Inc. (CVE:RUM) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
When Is Debt A Problem?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
How Much Debt Does Rocky Mountain Liquor Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Rocky Mountain Liquor had debt of CA$3.65m at the end of June 2023, a reduction from CA$5.45m over a year. However, it does have CA$113.1k in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about CA$3.54m.
How Healthy Is Rocky Mountain Liquor's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Rocky Mountain Liquor had liabilities of CA$4.86m due within a year, and liabilities of CA$10.6m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of CA$113.1k and CA$344.6k worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling CA$15.0m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the CA$5.50m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Rocky Mountain Liquor would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Even though Rocky Mountain Liquor's debt is only 2.4, its interest cover is really very low at 1.4. This does suggest the company is paying fairly high interest rates. In any case, it's safe to say the company has meaningful debt. Unfortunately, Rocky Mountain Liquor's EBIT flopped 12% over the last four quarters. If earnings continue to decline at that rate then handling the debt will be more difficult than taking three children under 5 to a fancy pants restaurant. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Rocky Mountain Liquor will need earnings to service that debt. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.
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, Rocky Mountain Liquor actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.
To be frank both Rocky Mountain Liquor's interest cover and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least it's pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that's encouraging. We're quite clear that we consider Rocky Mountain Liquor to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. So we're almost as wary of this stock as a hungry kitten is about falling into its owner's fish pond: once bitten, twice shy, as they say. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example, we've discovered 4 warning signs for Rocky Mountain Liquor (3 are potentially serious!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
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.