We Think Huhtamäki Oyj (HEL:HUH1V) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt
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. We can see that Huhtamäki Oyj (HEL:HUH1V) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
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. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
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What Is Huhtamäki Oyj's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2022 Huhtamäki Oyj had debt of €1.64b, up from €1.53b in one year. However, it also had €309.4m in cash, and so its net debt is €1.33b.
How Strong Is Huhtamäki Oyj's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Huhtamäki Oyj had liabilities of €1.21b due within a year, and liabilities of €1.69b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had €309.4m in cash and €744.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by €1.85b.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Huhtamäki Oyj has a market capitalization of €3.35b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.
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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Huhtamäki Oyj's net debt of 2.4 times EBITDA suggests graceful use of debt. And the fact that its trailing twelve months of EBIT was 9.2 times its interest expenses harmonizes with that theme. Also relevant is that Huhtamäki Oyj has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 27% in the last year, thus enhancing its ability to pay down 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 Huhtamäki 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 always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Huhtamäki Oyj reported free cash flow worth 18% of its EBIT, which is really quite low. That limp level of cash conversion undermines its ability to manage and pay down debt.
On our analysis Huhtamäki Oyj's EBIT growth rate should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For instance it seems like it has to struggle a bit to convert EBIT to free cash flow. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Huhtamäki Oyj's use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Huhtamäki Oyj (1 can't be ignored) 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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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.
Huhtamäki Oyj provides packaging solutions in the United States, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, Australia, Thailand, China, South Africa, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Findland, and internationally.
Solid track record average dividend payer.