Stock Analysis

Is Københavns Lufthavne (CPH:KBHL) A Risky Investment?

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Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies Københavns Lufthavne A/S (CPH:KBHL) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Københavns Lufthavne

What Is Københavns Lufthavne's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Københavns Lufthavne had kr.9.91b of debt in December 2022, down from kr.10.5b, one year before. And it doesn't have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.

CPSE:KBHL Debt to Equity History March 16th 2023

How Strong Is Københavns Lufthavne's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Københavns Lufthavne had liabilities of kr.6.73b due within a year, and liabilities of kr.5.20b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had kr.97.0m in cash and kr.380.0m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by kr.11.5b.

Københavns Lufthavne has a market capitalization of kr.49.3b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

With a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 7.5, it's fair to say Københavns Lufthavne does have a significant amount of debt. However, its interest coverage of 2.8 is reasonably strong, which is a good sign. However, the silver lining was that Københavns Lufthavne achieved a positive EBIT of kr.402m in the last twelve months, an improvement on the prior year's loss. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Københavns Lufthavne's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. Over the last year, Københavns Lufthavne 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.

Our View

Københavns Lufthavne's net debt to EBITDA was a real negative on this analysis, although the other factors we considered were considerably better. In particular, we are dazzled with its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. We would also note that Infrastructure industry companies like Københavns Lufthavne commonly do use debt without problems. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Københavns Lufthavne is managing its debt quite well. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example - Københavns Lufthavne has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

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.

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