We Think LANXESS (ETR:LXS) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 18, 2022
XTRA:LXS
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. We can see that LANXESS Aktiengesellschaft (ETR:LXS) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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.

See our latest analysis for LANXESS

What Is LANXESS's Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that LANXESS had €2.87b in debt in September 2021; about the same as the year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of €500.0m, its net debt is less, at about €2.37b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
XTRA:LXS Debt to Equity History January 18th 2022

How Strong Is LANXESS' Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that LANXESS had liabilities of €1.65b due within a year, and liabilities of €4.32b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had €500.0m in cash and €1.16b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling €4.31b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of €5.06b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on LANXESS' use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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.

LANXESS's net debt is 2.6 times its EBITDA, which is a significant but still reasonable amount of leverage. But its EBIT was about 1k times its interest expense, implying the company isn't really paying a high cost to maintain that level of debt. Even were the low cost to prove unsustainable, that is a good sign. Importantly, LANXESS grew its EBIT by 42% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if LANXESS 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. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, LANXESS reported free cash flow worth 14% of its EBIT, which is really quite low. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.

Our View

LANXESS's interest cover was a real positive on this analysis, as was its EBIT growth rate. Having said that, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow somewhat sensitizes us to potential future risks to the balance sheet. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about LANXESS's use of debt. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we'd suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. 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 learn about the 4 warning signs we've spotted with LANXESS (including 1 which doesn't sit too well with us) .

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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