Here's Why VINCI (EPA:DG) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 21, 2021
ENXTPA:DG
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. We note that VINCI SA (EPA:DG) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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 examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

View our latest analysis for VINCI

What Is VINCI's Debt?

As you can see below, VINCI had €30.1b of debt at June 2021, down from €31.6b a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of €10.5b, its net debt is less, at about €19.7b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ENXTPA:DG Debt to Equity History December 21st 2021

How Strong Is VINCI's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, VINCI had liabilities of €33.7b due within 12 months, and liabilities of €34.4b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had €10.5b in cash and €14.2b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by €43.4b.

This is a mountain of leverage even relative to its gargantuan market capitalization of €48.8b. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

With net debt to EBITDA of 3.0 VINCI has a fairly noticeable amount of debt. But the high interest coverage of 8.0 suggests it can easily service that debt. If VINCI can keep growing EBIT at last year's rate of 14% over the last year, then it will find its debt load easier to manage. 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 VINCI'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, VINCI actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for VINCI was the fact that it seems able to convert EBIT to free cash flow confidently. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For instance it seems like it has to struggle a bit to handle its total liabilities. Considering this range of data points, we think VINCI is in a good position to manage its debt levels. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. 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 example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for VINCI that you should be aware of before investing here.

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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