Here's Why SFS Group (VTX:SFSN) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly
Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies SFS Group AG (VTX:SFSN) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
When Is Debt Dangerous?
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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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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What Is SFS Group's Net Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of December 2022 SFS Group had CHF699.2m of debt, an increase on CHF6.80m, over one year. On the flip side, it has CHF221.5m in cash leading to net debt of about CHF477.7m.
A Look At SFS Group's Liabilities
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that SFS Group had liabilities of CHF498.6m due within 12 months and liabilities of CHF772.0m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had CHF221.5m in cash and CHF515.8m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CHF533.3m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Given SFS Group has a market capitalization of CHF4.22b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.
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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
SFS Group has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.1. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 40.0 times over. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Also good is that SFS Group grew its EBIT at 11% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine SFS Group'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.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, SFS Group produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 61% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.
The good news is that SFS Group's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And we also thought its net debt to EBITDA was a positive. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like SFS Group is pretty sensible with its use of debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. 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 SFS Group you should know about.
If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.
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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.
SFS Group AG supplies mechanical fastening systems, assemblies, precision molded parts, and logistics solutions in Switzerland and internationally.
Solid track record with excellent balance sheet.