Elisa Oyj (HEL:ELISA) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 14, 2022
HLSE:ELISA
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. As with many other companies Elisa Oyj (HEL:ELISA) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Elisa Oyj

How Much Debt Does Elisa Oyj Carry?

As you can see below, Elisa Oyj had €1.24b of debt at December 2021, down from €1.33b a year prior. However, it does have €114.1m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about €1.13b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
HLSE:ELISA Debt to Equity History April 14th 2022

A Look At Elisa Oyj's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Elisa Oyj had liabilities of €526.0m falling due within a year, and liabilities of €1.30b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €114.1m as well as receivables valued at €507.0m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling €1.20b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given Elisa Oyj has a market capitalization of €8.90b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Elisa Oyj's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 1.7 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its strong interest cover of 40.9 times, makes us even more comfortable. The good news is that Elisa Oyj has increased its EBIT by 3.3% over twelve months, which should ease any concerns about debt repayment. 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 Elisa 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.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Elisa Oyj generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 81% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

Elisa Oyj'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. Zooming out, Elisa Oyj seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Elisa Oyj you should be aware of, and 1 of them can't be ignored.

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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