Stock Analysis

C21 Investments (CSE:CXXI) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

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CNSX:CXXI
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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.' 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. As with many other companies C21 Investments Inc. (CSE:CXXI) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. 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 C21 Investments

How Much Debt Does C21 Investments Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that C21 Investments had debt of US$25.3m at the end of October 2020, a reduction from US$32.2m over a year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$3.40m, its net debt is less, at about US$21.9m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
CNSX:CXXI Debt to Equity History March 7th 2021

How Healthy Is C21 Investments' Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that C21 Investments had liabilities of US$35.4m due within a year, and liabilities of US$7.17m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$3.40m and US$364.0k worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$38.8m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since C21 Investments has a market capitalization of US$171.3m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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). 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).

While we wouldn't worry about C21 Investments's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.7, we think its super-low interest cover of 1.7 times is a sign of high leverage. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. However, the silver lining was that C21 Investments achieved a positive EBIT of US$6.2m in the last twelve months, an improvement on the prior year's loss. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is C21 Investments's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it is important to check how much of its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) converts to actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, C21 Investments actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last year. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

On our analysis C21 Investments's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. To be specific, it seems about as good at covering its interest expense with its EBIT as wet socks are at keeping your feet warm. Considering this range of data points, we think C21 Investments is in a good position to manage its debt levels. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. 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 C21 Investments is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those can't be ignored...

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.

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