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.' 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. We note that Deutsche EuroShop AG (ETR:DEQ) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free 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 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 thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
What Is Deutsche EuroShop's Debt?
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Deutsche EuroShop had €1.53b in debt in September 2021; about the same as the year before. On the flip side, it has €306.1m in cash leading to net debt of about €1.23b.
A Look At Deutsche EuroShop's Liabilities
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Deutsche EuroShop had liabilities of €206.6m due within 12 months and liabilities of €1.69b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had €306.1m in cash and €23.2m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling €1.57b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the €869.3m 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'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. At the end of the day, Deutsche EuroShop would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.
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).
Deutsche EuroShop's debt is 4.8 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 6.3 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Importantly, Deutsche EuroShop grew its EBIT by 46% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its 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 Deutsche EuroShop can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Deutsche EuroShop recorded free cash flow worth 61% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.
Neither Deutsche EuroShop's ability to handle its total liabilities nor its net debt to EBITDA gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But the good news is it seems to be able to grow its EBIT with ease. Taking the abovementioned factors together we do think Deutsche EuroShop's debt poses some risks to the business. So while that leverage does boost returns on equity, we wouldn't really want to see it increase from here. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Deutsche EuroShop (1 is a bit concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
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.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
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.