Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies Aroundtown SA (ETR:AT1) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. 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.
What Is Aroundtown's Net Debt?
As you can see below, Aroundtown had €11.4b of debt at June 2021, down from €12.2b a year prior. However, it also had €3.11b in cash, and so its net debt is €8.29b.
How Healthy Is Aroundtown's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Aroundtown had liabilities of €1.27b due within a year, and liabilities of €13.7b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had €3.11b in cash and €648.9m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €11.2b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the €6.93b company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Aroundtown would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.
We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).
With a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 8.7, it's fair to say Aroundtown does have a significant amount of debt. However, its interest coverage of 5.2 is reasonably strong, which is a good sign. Importantly Aroundtown's EBIT was essentially flat over the last twelve months. We would prefer to see some earnings growth, because that always helps diminish debt. 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 Aroundtown 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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, Aroundtown produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 60% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
To be frank both Aroundtown's net debt to EBITDA and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Overall, it seems to us that Aroundtown's balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example Aroundtown has 3 warning signs (and 1 which can't be ignored) we think you should know about.
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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.
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