Stock Analysis

We Think C21 Investments (CSE:CXXI) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

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CNSX:CXXI
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies C21 Investments Inc. (CSE:CXXI) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for C21 Investments

How Much Debt Does C21 Investments Carry?

As you can see below, C21 Investments had US$15.7m of debt at April 2021, down from US$29.1m a year prior. On the flip side, it has US$6.12m in cash leading to net debt of about US$9.55m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
CNSX:CXXI Debt to Equity History September 3rd 2021

A Look At C21 Investments' Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that C21 Investments had liabilities of US$14.4m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$23.4m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$6.12m in cash and US$167.4k in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$31.5m.

C21 Investments has a market capitalization of US$89.8m, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without 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). 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).

C21 Investments has a very low debt to EBITDA ratio of 0.84 so it is strange to see weak interest coverage, with last year's EBIT being only 2.3 times the interest expense. So one way or the other, it's clear the debt levels are not trivial. Notably, C21 Investments's EBIT launched higher than Elon Musk, gaining a whopping 1,353% on last year. 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 when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

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. Happily for any shareholders, C21 Investments actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last two years. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

Happily, C21 Investments's impressive conversion of EBIT to free cash flow implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But we must concede we find its interest cover has the opposite effect. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like C21 Investments is pretty sensible with its use of debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for C21 Investments (of which 1 is potentially serious!) you should know about.

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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