Stock Analysis

Here's Why WildBrain (TSE:WILD) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden

TSX:WILD
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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 note that WildBrain Ltd. (TSE:WILD) does have debt on its balance sheet. 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. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for WildBrain

What Is WildBrain's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2022 WildBrain had debt of CA$597.5m, up from CA$547.8m in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of CA$59.9m, its net debt is less, at about CA$537.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:WILD Debt to Equity History September 28th 2022

How Strong Is WildBrain's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that WildBrain had liabilities of CA$368.9m falling due within a year, and liabilities of CA$534.9m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had CA$59.9m in cash and CA$249.7m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CA$594.2m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's CA$404.5m market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

WildBrain shareholders face the double whammy of a high net debt to EBITDA ratio (6.2), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 2.3 times the interest expense. This means we'd consider it to have a heavy debt load. On a lighter note, we note that WildBrain grew its EBIT by 30% in the last year. If it can maintain that kind of improvement, its debt load will begin to melt away like glaciers in a warming world. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine WildBrain's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, WildBrain actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

We feel some trepidation about WildBrain's difficulty net debt to EBITDA, but we've got positives to focus on, too. For example, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and EBIT growth rate give us some confidence in its ability to manage its debt. Taking the abovementioned factors together we do think WildBrain's debt poses some risks to the business. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. 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. For example - WildBrain has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether WildBrain is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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.