Stock Analysis

Is Northcliff Resources (TSE:NCF) Using Too Much Debt?

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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. We can see that Northcliff Resources Ltd. (TSE:NCF) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

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How Much Debt Does Northcliff Resources Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of October 2022, Northcliff Resources had CA$4.45m of debt, up from CA$1.34m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. But on the other hand it also has CA$4.93m in cash, leading to a CA$482.0k net cash position.

TSX:NCF Debt to Equity History January 29th 2023

How Strong Is Northcliff Resources' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Northcliff Resources had liabilities of CA$6.57m due within 12 months and no liabilities due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had CA$4.93m in cash and CA$103.2k in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling CA$1.54m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Since publicly traded Northcliff Resources shares are worth a total of CA$8.95m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Northcliff Resources boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load! When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Northcliff Resources 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.

Since Northcliff Resources has no significant operating revenue, shareholders probably hope it will develop a valuable new mine before too long.

So How Risky Is Northcliff Resources?

By their very nature companies that are losing money are more risky than those with a long history of profitability. And we do note that Northcliff Resources had an earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss, over the last year. And over the same period it saw negative free cash outflow of CA$728k and booked a CA$1.9m accounting loss. But at least it has CA$482.0k on the balance sheet to spend on growth, near-term. Summing up, we're a little skeptical of this one, as it seems fairly risky in the absence of free cashflow. 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. To that end, you should learn about the 5 warning signs we've spotted with Northcliff Resources (including 4 which are concerning) .

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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