Stock Analysis

Is Celestica (TSE:CLS) A Risky Investment?

TSX:CLS
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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. We note that Celestica Inc. (TSE:CLS) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

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. 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. 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.

View our latest analysis for Celestica

What Is Celestica's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of March 2022 Celestica had US$653.2m of debt, an increase on US$447.2m, over one year. However, it also had US$346.6m in cash, and so its net debt is US$306.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:CLS Debt to Equity History July 21st 2022

How Strong Is Celestica's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Celestica had liabilities of US$2.41b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$931.6m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$346.6m in cash and US$1.25b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$1.74b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of US$1.28b, we think shareholders really should watch Celestica's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

While Celestica's low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.0 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 6.2 times last year does give us pause. So we'd recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. On top of that, Celestica grew its EBIT by 62% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Celestica 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Celestica actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

Both Celestica's ability to to convert EBIT to free cash flow and its EBIT growth rate gave us comfort that it can handle its debt. But truth be told its level of total liabilities had us nibbling our nails. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Celestica is managing its debt quite well. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Celestica you should know about.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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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.