Stock Analysis

WildBrain (TSE:WILD) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

TSX:WILD
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Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We can see that WildBrain Ltd. (TSE:WILD) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. 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, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for WildBrain

What Is WildBrain's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that WildBrain had CA$596.4m of debt in September 2023, down from CA$664.7m, one year before. On the flip side, it has CA$61.6m in cash leading to net debt of about CA$534.8m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:WILD Debt to Equity History November 22nd 2023

A Look At WildBrain's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, WildBrain had liabilities of CA$467.1m due within 12 months, and liabilities of CA$404.6m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$61.6m as well as receivables valued at CA$293.3m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CA$516.9m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit casts a shadow over the CA$246.5m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, WildBrain would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Weak interest cover of 1.1 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 7.2 hit our confidence in WildBrain like a one-two punch to the gut. The debt burden here is substantial. Another concern for investors might be that WildBrain's EBIT fell 13% in the last year. If that's the way things keep going handling the debt load will be like delivering hot coffees on a pogo stick. 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.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept 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 recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 95% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

To be frank both WildBrain's interest cover and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. We're quite clear that we consider WildBrain to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Be aware that WildBrain is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , you should know about...

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.

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.