Stock Analysis

We Think PNE (ETR:PNE3) Is Taking Some Risk With Its Debt

XTRA:PNE3
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies PNE AG (ETR:PNE3) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. 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. 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. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

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What Is PNE's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at March 2022 PNE had debt of €421.4m, up from €300.4m in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of €168.1m, its net debt is less, at about €253.3m.

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XTRA:PNE3 Debt to Equity History July 16th 2022

A Look At PNE's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that PNE had liabilities of €109.8m falling due within a year, and liabilities of €514.3m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had €168.1m in cash and €51.7m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by €404.2m.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since PNE has a market capitalization of €1.07b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

PNE has a rather high debt to EBITDA ratio of 7.7 which suggests a meaningful debt load. But the good news is that it boasts fairly comforting interest cover of 3.5 times, suggesting it can responsibly service its obligations. The silver lining is that PNE grew its EBIT by 219% last year, which nourishing like the idealism of youth. 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 it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine PNE's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, PNE burned a lot of cash. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

PNE's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and net debt to EBITDA definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But the good news is it seems to be able to grow its EBIT with ease. When we consider all the factors discussed, it seems to us that PNE is taking some risks with its use of debt. So while that leverage does boost returns on equity, we wouldn't really want to see it increase from here. 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. To that end, you should be aware of the 2 warning signs we've spotted with PNE .

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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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.