Is Scandinavian Tobacco Group (CPH:STG) Using Too Much Debt?

Published
August 02, 2022
CPSE:STG
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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 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. Importantly, Scandinavian Tobacco Group A/S (CPH:STG) does carry debt. 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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Scandinavian Tobacco Group

What Is Scandinavian Tobacco Group's Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Scandinavian Tobacco Group had kr.2.90b in debt in March 2022; about the same as the year before. However, it does have kr.118.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about kr.2.78b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
CPSE:STG Debt to Equity History August 2nd 2022

How Healthy Is Scandinavian Tobacco Group's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Scandinavian Tobacco Group had liabilities of kr.1.49b due within a year, and liabilities of kr.4.29b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of kr.118.0m and kr.1.05b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total kr.4.61b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Scandinavian Tobacco Group has a market capitalization of kr.12.3b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

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). 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).

Scandinavian Tobacco Group has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.3. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 23.3 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Also good is that Scandinavian Tobacco Group grew its EBIT at 13% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Scandinavian Tobacco Group'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.

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. Over the last three years, Scandinavian Tobacco Group recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 85% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

Scandinavian Tobacco Group's interest cover suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like Scandinavian Tobacco Group is pretty sensible with its use of debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 1 warning sign for Scandinavian Tobacco Group you should be aware of.

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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