Stock Analysis

Bilfinger (ETR:GBF) Seems To Use Debt Rather Sparingly

XTRA:GBF
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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. Importantly, Bilfinger SE (ETR:GBF) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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 common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Bilfinger

What Is Bilfinger's Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Bilfinger had €265.7m in debt in March 2023; about the same as the year before. However, it does have €530.9m in cash offsetting this, leading to net cash of €265.2m.

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XTRA:GBF Debt to Equity History June 22nd 2023

How Strong Is Bilfinger's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Bilfinger had liabilities of €1.33b due within 12 months and liabilities of €667.7m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of €530.9m and €1.13b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling €340.4m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Bilfinger has a market capitalization of €1.19b, 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. While it does have liabilities worth noting, Bilfinger also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.

On top of that, Bilfinger grew its EBIT by 38% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its 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 Bilfinger can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. Bilfinger may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. Over the last three years, Bilfinger recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 87% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Summing Up

Although Bilfinger's balance sheet isn't particularly strong, due to the total liabilities, it is clearly positive to see that it has net cash of €265.2m. And it impressed us with free cash flow of €106m, being 87% of its EBIT. So we don't think Bilfinger's use of debt is risky. 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. Be aware that Bilfinger is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about...

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.