Does Empresas CMPC (SNSE:CMPC) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 08, 2022
SNSE:CMPC
Source: Shutterstock

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.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. Importantly, Empresas CMPC S.A. (SNSE:CMPC) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Empresas CMPC

How Much Debt Does Empresas CMPC Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of September 2021, Empresas CMPC had US$4.42b of debt, up from US$4.06b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. On the flip side, it has US$1.21b in cash leading to net debt of about US$3.21b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SNSE:CMPC Debt to Equity History January 8th 2022

How Healthy Is Empresas CMPC's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Empresas CMPC had liabilities of US$1.76b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$5.65b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$1.21b in cash and US$1.21b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$4.99b.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of US$4.24b, we think shareholders really should watch Empresas CMPC's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Empresas CMPC has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.7 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.4 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. However, it should be some comfort for shareholders to recall that Empresas CMPC actually grew its EBIT by a hefty 1,325%, over the last 12 months. If it can keep walking that path it will be in a position to shed its debt with relative ease. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Empresas CMPC 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 clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Empresas CMPC 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

Empresas CMPC's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a real positive on this analysis, as was its EBIT growth rate. In contrast, our confidence was undermined by its apparent struggle to handle its total liabilities. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Empresas CMPC's debt levels. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. 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. For example Empresas CMPC has 4 warning signs (and 1 which is a bit unpleasant) we think 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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