Stock Analysis

SalfaCorp (SNSE:SALFACORP) Takes On Some Risk With Its Use Of Debt

SNSE:SALFACORP
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David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the 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. As with many other companies SalfaCorp S.A. (SNSE:SALFACORP) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for SalfaCorp

How Much Debt Does SalfaCorp Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that SalfaCorp had CL$442.0b in debt in June 2021; about the same as the year before. However, it does have CL$50.4b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about CL$391.5b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SNSE:SALFACORP Debt to Equity History October 18th 2021

How Healthy Is SalfaCorp's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that SalfaCorp had liabilities of CL$409.4b due within 12 months and liabilities of CL$330.0b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had CL$50.4b in cash and CL$209.2b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CL$479.7b.

This deficit casts a shadow over the CL$117.1b 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, SalfaCorp would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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.

SalfaCorp has a rather high debt to EBITDA ratio of 14.1 which suggests a meaningful debt load. But the good news is that it boasts fairly comforting interest cover of 3.0 times, suggesting it can responsibly service its obligations. On a slightly more positive note, SalfaCorp grew its EBIT at 12% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since SalfaCorp will need earnings to service that debt. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, SalfaCorp actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

To be frank both SalfaCorp's net debt to EBITDA and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least it's pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that's encouraging. Once we consider all the factors above, together, it seems to us that SalfaCorp's debt is making it a bit risky. Some people like that sort of risk, but we're mindful of the potential pitfalls, so we'd probably prefer it carry less debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. To that end, you should learn about the 4 warning signs we've spotted with SalfaCorp (including 2 which are significant) .

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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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.

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