Stock Analysis

These 4 Measures Indicate That Bilfinger (ETR:GBF) Is Using Debt Safely

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.' 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. We note that Bilfinger SE (ETR:GBF) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

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. 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, 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Bilfinger

How Much Debt Does Bilfinger Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Bilfinger had debt of €264.2m at the end of March 2022, a reduction from €374.9m over a year. But on the other hand it also has €742.3m in cash, leading to a €478.1m net cash position.

debt-equity-history-analysis
XTRA:GBF Debt to Equity History June 16th 2022

How Strong Is Bilfinger's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Bilfinger had liabilities of €1.17b due within 12 months, and liabilities of €704.8m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €742.3m as well as receivables valued at €1.05b due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €80.8m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Given Bilfinger has a market capitalization of €1.14b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Bilfinger boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

On top of that, Bilfinger grew its EBIT by 94% 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 it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Bilfinger'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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. While Bilfinger has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. During the last three years, Bilfinger generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 88% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Summing up

While it is always sensible to look at a company's total liabilities, it is very reassuring that Bilfinger has €478.1m in net cash. And it impressed us with free cash flow of €6.3m, being 88% of its EBIT. So we don't think Bilfinger's use of debt is risky. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. 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...

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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Bilfinger is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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.