Poujoulat (EPA:ALPJT) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

By
Simply Wall St
Published
September 21, 2021
ENXTPA:ALPJT
Source: Shutterstock

The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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 Poujoulat SA (EPA:ALPJT) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Poujoulat

What Is Poujoulat's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at March 2021 Poujoulat had debt of €75.6m, up from €70.5m in one year. However, it also had €15.2m in cash, and so its net debt is €60.4m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ENXTPA:ALPJT Debt to Equity History September 22nd 2021

A Look At Poujoulat's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Poujoulat had liabilities of €63.6m due within 12 months, and liabilities of €73.0m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had €15.2m in cash and €45.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by €76.0m.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of €104.7m, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Poujoulat's use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe 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). 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).

Poujoulat's net debt is 3.4 times its EBITDA, which is a significant but still reasonable amount of leverage. But its EBIT was about 11.7 times its interest expense, implying the company isn't really paying a high cost to maintain that level of debt. Even were the low cost to prove unsustainable, that is a good sign. Notably, Poujoulat's EBIT launched higher than Elon Musk, gaining a whopping 269% on last year. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Poujoulat's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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 clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Poujoulat burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.

Our View

While Poujoulat's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow has us nervous. To wit both its EBIT growth rate and interest cover were encouraging signs. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Poujoulat is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Poujoulat 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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