Is Exchange Income (TSE:EIF) Using Too Much Debt?
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 Exchange Income Corporation (TSE:EIF) 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 assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
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How Much Debt Does Exchange Income Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2022 Exchange Income had debt of CA$1.62b, up from CA$1.20b in one year. However, it does have CA$139.9m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about CA$1.48b.
A Look At Exchange Income's Liabilities
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Exchange Income had liabilities of CA$580.5m falling due within a year, and liabilities of CA$1.95b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had CA$139.9m in cash and CA$468.2m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling CA$1.92b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of CA$2.12b. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Exchange Income has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.5 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.0 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. The good news is that Exchange Income grew its EBIT a smooth 65% over the last twelve months. Like the milk of human kindness that sort of growth increases resilience, making the company more capable of managing 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 Exchange Income 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. In the last three years, Exchange Income created free cash flow amounting to 18% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.
Exchange Income's interest cover and level of total liabilities definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But its EBIT growth rate tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. When we consider all the factors discussed, it seems to us that Exchange Income is taking some risks with its use of debt. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. 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. We've identified 3 warning signs with Exchange Income , 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.
Exchange Income Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, engages in aerospace and aviation services and equipment, and manufacturing businesses worldwide.
Solid track record, good value and pays a dividend.