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.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. We note that Chorus Aviation Inc. (TSE:CHR) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. 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.
How Much Debt Does Chorus Aviation Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2022 Chorus Aviation had debt of CA$2.36b, up from CA$2.01b in one year. However, it does have CA$70.7m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about CA$2.29b.
How Strong Is Chorus Aviation's Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, Chorus Aviation had liabilities of CA$687.9m due within 12 months, and liabilities of CA$2.37b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$70.7m as well as receivables valued at CA$190.5m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CA$2.79b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
This deficit casts a shadow over the CA$495.4m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Chorus Aviation would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Weak interest cover of 1.7 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 7.6 hit our confidence in Chorus Aviation like a one-two punch to the gut. The debt burden here is substantial. On the other hand, Chorus Aviation grew its EBIT by 30% in the last year. If it can maintain that kind of improvement, its debt load will begin to melt away like glaciers in a warming world. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Chorus Aviation 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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Chorus Aviation burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.
On the face of it, Chorus Aviation's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. We're quite clear that we consider Chorus Aviation to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. 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. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. 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 2 warning signs for Chorus Aviation (of which 1 is significant!) you should know about.
Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.
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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.
Chorus Aviation Inc., through its subsidiaries, provides various aviation support services in the United States and Canada.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
|Analysis Area||Score (0-6)|
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Very undervalued with reasonable growth potential.