Stock Analysis

Is Celestica (TSE:CLS) A Risky Investment?

TSX:CLS
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Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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. We note that Celestica Inc. (TSE:CLS) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Celestica

What Is Celestica's Net Debt?

As you can see below, Celestica had US$619.3m of debt at March 2023, down from US$653.2m a year prior. However, it does have US$318.7m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$300.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:CLS Debt to Equity History June 7th 2023

How Healthy Is Celestica's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Celestica had liabilities of US$2.93b due within 12 months and liabilities of US$887.6m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$318.7m as well as receivables valued at US$1.33b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.17b.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of US$1.51b, we think shareholders really should watch Celestica's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (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).

Looking at its net debt to EBITDA of 0.65 and interest cover of 4.9 times, it seems to us that Celestica is probably using debt in a pretty reasonable way. But the interest payments are certainly sufficient to have us thinking about how affordable its debt is. Importantly, Celestica grew its EBIT by 69% 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 want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Celestica produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 75% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

Celestica's EBIT growth rate was a real positive on this analysis, as was its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. But truth be told its level of total liabilities had us nibbling our nails. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Celestica's debt levels. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we'd suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. 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. We've identified 1 warning sign with Celestica , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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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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.