Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies Sika AG (VTX:SIKA) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Sika's Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Sika had CHF3.86b of debt in December 2020, down from CHF4.08b, one year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of CHF1.32b, its net debt is less, at about CHF2.54b.
How Strong Is Sika's Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Sika had liabilities of CHF1.83b falling due within a year, and liabilities of CHF4.68b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CHF1.32b as well as receivables valued at CHF1.37b due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CHF3.81b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Since publicly traded Sika shares are worth a very impressive total of CHF35.3b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.
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.
Sika's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 1.8 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its commanding EBIT of 21.7 times its interest expense, implies the debt load is as light as a peacock feather. We saw Sika grow its EBIT by 3.9% in the last twelve months. That's far from incredible but it is a good thing, when it comes to paying off 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 Sika 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 we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Sika recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 87% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
Sika's interest cover suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. Looking at the bigger picture, we think Sika's use of debt seems quite reasonable and we're not concerned about it. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. 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. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Sika that you should be aware of.
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.
If you’re looking to trade Sika, open an account with the lowest-cost* platform trusted by professionals, Interactive Brokers. Their clients from over 200 countries and territories trade stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds worldwide from a single integrated account.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
*Interactive Brokers Rated Lowest Cost Broker by StockBrokers.com Annual Online Review 2020
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.