Eldorado Gold (TSE:ELD) Takes On Some Risk With Its Use Of Debt

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 24, 2021
TSX:ELD
Source: Shutterstock

David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' 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. We can see that Eldorado Gold Corporation (TSE:ELD) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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 frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Eldorado Gold

What Is Eldorado Gold's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Eldorado Gold had debt of US$493.6m at the end of September 2021, a reduction from US$542.9m over a year. On the flip side, it has US$461.2m in cash leading to net debt of about US$32.4m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:ELD Debt to Equity History December 24th 2021

How Healthy Is Eldorado Gold's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Eldorado Gold had liabilities of US$181.9m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$1.02b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$461.2m as well as receivables valued at US$75.4m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$665.5m.

Eldorado Gold has a market capitalization of US$1.72b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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).

Eldorado Gold's net debt to EBITDA ratio is very low, at 0.074, suggesting the debt is only trivial. Although with EBIT only covering interest expenses 4.5 times over, the company is truly paying for borrowing. The bad news is that Eldorado Gold saw its EBIT decline by 20% 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. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Eldorado Gold can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent two years, Eldorado Gold recorded free cash flow worth 63% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

Eldorado Gold's EBIT growth rate was a real negative on this analysis, although the other factors we considered cast it in a significantly better light. For example its net debt to EBITDA was refreshing. We think that Eldorado Gold's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. To that end, you should be aware of the 4 warning signs we've spotted with Eldorado Gold .

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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