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.’ 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. We note that Lingotes Especiales, S.A. (BME:LGT) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
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. Ultimately, if the company can’t fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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.
How Much Debt Does Lingotes Especiales Carry?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2019 Lingotes Especiales had €21.3m of debt, an increase on €15.4m, over one year. However, it does have €6.31m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about €15.0m.
How Strong Is Lingotes Especiales’s Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, Lingotes Especiales had liabilities of €34.9m due within 12 months, and liabilities of €18.2m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of €6.31m and €22.5m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling €24.2m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Since publicly traded Lingotes Especiales shares are worth a total of €138.0m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. Having said that, it’s clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse.
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). 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).
Lingotes Especiales’s net debt is only 0.91 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 46.0 times over. So we’re pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. It is just as well that Lingotes Especiales’s load is not too heavy, because its EBIT was down 20% over the last year. When a company sees its earnings tank, it can sometimes find its relationships with its lenders turn sour. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Lingotes Especiales 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.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don’t cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. In the last three years, Lingotes Especiales created free cash flow amounting to 18% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.
Lingotes Especiales’s EBIT growth rate and conversion of EBIT to free cash flow definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But the good news is it seems to be able to cover its interest expense with its EBIT with ease. When we consider all the factors discussed, it seems to us that Lingotes Especiales is taking some risks with its use of debt. So while that leverage does boost returns on equity, we wouldn’t really want to see it increase from here. Given our hesitation about the stock, it would be good to know if Lingotes Especiales insiders have sold any shares recently. You click here to find out if insiders have sold recently.
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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