Stock Analysis

Is Dye & Durham (TSE:DND) A Risky Investment?

TSX:DND
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The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. Importantly, Dye & Durham Limited (TSE:DND) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

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What Is Dye & Durham's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at March 2024 Dye & Durham had debt of CA$1.34b, up from CA$1.26b in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of CA$98.0m, its net debt is less, at about CA$1.24b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:DND Debt to Equity History May 24th 2024

A Look At Dye & Durham's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Dye & Durham had liabilities of CA$155.6m due within 12 months, and liabilities of CA$1.49b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$98.0m as well as receivables valued at CA$92.1m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CA$1.45b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit casts a shadow over the CA$888.9m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. After all, Dye & Durham would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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). 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).

Weak interest cover of 0.48 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 7.6 hit our confidence in Dye & Durham like a one-two punch to the gut. This means we'd consider it to have a heavy debt load. More concerning, Dye & Durham saw its EBIT drop by 8.0% in the last twelve months. If it keeps going like that paying off its debt will be like running on a treadmill -- a lot of effort for not much advancement. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Dye & Durham's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Dye & Durham actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

To be frank both Dye & Durham'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. Overall, it seems to us that Dye & Durham's balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. So we're almost as wary of this stock as a hungry kitten is about falling into its owner's fish pond: once bitten, twice shy, as they say. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 1 warning sign for Dye & Durham 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 Dye & Durham 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.

About TSX:DND

Dye & Durham

Provides cloud-based software and technology solutions for law firms, financial service institutions, sole-practitioner law firms, and government organizations in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Very undervalued with adequate balance sheet.

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