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 note that Reka Industrial Oyj (HEL:REKA) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is Reka Industrial Oyj's Net Debt?
As you can see below, Reka Industrial Oyj had €20.9m of debt at December 2021, down from €25.6m a year prior. On the flip side, it has €767.0k in cash leading to net debt of about €20.2m.
How Healthy Is Reka Industrial Oyj's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Reka Industrial Oyj had liabilities of €32.9m due within a year, and liabilities of €29.2m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of €767.0k and €4.78m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total €56.6m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the €21.9m 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 definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Reka Industrial Oyj 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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
While Reka Industrial Oyj has a quite reasonable net debt to EBITDA multiple of 2.4, its interest cover seems weak, at 2.4. This does have us wondering if the company pays high interest because it is considered risky. Either way there's no doubt the stock is using meaningful leverage. Importantly, Reka Industrial Oyj grew its EBIT by 45% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Reka Industrial Oyj'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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Reka Industrial Oyj recorded free cash flow of 45% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.
Mulling over Reka Industrial Oyj's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But at least it's pretty decent at growing its EBIT; that's encouraging. Once we consider all the factors above, together, it seems to us that Reka Industrial Oyj's debt is making it a bit risky. Some people like that sort of risk, but we're mindful of the potential pitfalls, so we'd probably prefer it carry less debt. 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. We've identified 3 warning signs with Reka Industrial Oyj (at least 1 which is concerning) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
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.