These 4 Measures Indicate That Lassonde Industries (TSE:LAS.A) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

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Warren Buffett famously said, ‘Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.’ 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. Importantly, Lassonde Industries Inc. (TSE:LAS.A) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. 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. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Lassonde Industries

How Much Debt Does Lassonde Industries Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of March 2019, Lassonde Industries had CA$341.7m of debt, up from CA$178.9m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn’t have much cash.

TSX:LAS.A Historical Debt, July 19th 2019
TSX:LAS.A Historical Debt, July 19th 2019

How Strong Is Lassonde Industries’s Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Lassonde Industries had liabilities of CA$243.8m falling due within a year, and liabilities of CA$366.3m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of CA$1.09m and CA$157.5m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CA$451.5m.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Lassonde Industries has a market capitalization of CA$1.24b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it’s clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution. Since Lassonde Industries does have net debt, we think it is worthwhile for shareholders to keep an eye on the balance sheet, over time.

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.

Lassonde Industries has net debt worth 2.12 times EBITDA, which isn’t too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 6.38 times the interest expense. While these numbers do not alarm us, it’s worth noting that the cost of the company’s debt is having a real impact. The bad news is that Lassonde Industries saw its EBIT decline by 16% over the last year. If that sort of decline is not arrested, then the managing its debt will be harder than selling broccoli flavoured ice-cream for a premium. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Lassonde Industries 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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Lassonde Industries recorded free cash flow worth 80% 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

On our analysis Lassonde Industries’s conversion of EBIT to free cash flow should signal that it won’t have too much trouble with its debt. But the other factors we noted above weren’t so encouraging. To be specific, it seems about as good at (not) growing its EBIT as wet socks are at keeping your feet warm. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Lassonde Industries’s debt levels. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we’d suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. Above most other metrics, we think its important to track how fast earnings per share is growing, if at all. If you’ve also come to that realization, you’re in luck, because today you can view this interactive graph of Lassonde Industries’s earnings per share history for free.

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.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.