Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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 Pandora A/S (CPH:PNDORA) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
When Is Debt Dangerous?
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 common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is Pandora's Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Pandora had debt of kr.1.32b at the end of December 2021, a reduction from kr.3.00b over a year. However, it does have kr.1.04b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about kr.273.0m.
How Healthy Is Pandora's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Pandora had liabilities of kr.8.25b due within a year, and liabilities of kr.3.30b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of kr.1.04b and kr.1.82b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling kr.8.68b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Since publicly traded Pandora shares are worth a total of kr.59.3b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. Carrying virtually no net debt, Pandora has a very light debt load indeed.
In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Pandora has very little debt (net of cash), and boasts a debt to EBITDA ratio of 0.042 and EBIT of 50.3 times the interest expense. So relative to past earnings, the debt load seems trivial. On top of that, Pandora grew its EBIT by 51% 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 it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Pandora's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Pandora actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.
Happily, Pandora's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. We think Pandora is no more beholden to its lenders, than the birds are to birdwatchers. For investing nerds like us its balance sheet is almost charming. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Pandora you should be aware of.
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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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.