Stock Analysis

These 4 Measures Indicate That WildBrain (TSE:WILD) Is Using Debt Extensively

TSX:WILD
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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.' 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 WildBrain Ltd. (TSE:WILD) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for WildBrain

How Much Debt Does WildBrain Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that WildBrain had CA$565.2m in debt in March 2022; about the same as the year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of CA$60.6m, its net debt is less, at about CA$504.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:WILD Debt to Equity History June 25th 2022

How Healthy Is WildBrain's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, WildBrain had liabilities of CA$291.5m due within 12 months, and liabilities of CA$583.1m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$60.6m as well as receivables valued at CA$239.3m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CA$574.8m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of CA$468.7m, we think shareholders really should watch WildBrain's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.

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). 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 (5.3), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 2.5 times the interest expense. This means we'd consider it to have a heavy debt load. Looking on the bright side, WildBrain boosted its EBIT by a silky 48% in the last year. Like the milk of human kindness that sort of growth increases resilience, making the company more capable of managing debt. 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 WildBrain 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, WildBrain actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

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. We think that WildBrain'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. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for WildBrain (1 is potentially serious) you should be aware of.

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.

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.