Is Guerbet (EPA:GBT) A Risky Investment?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
October 25, 2021
ENXTPA:GBT
Source: Shutterstock

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. As with many other companies Guerbet SA (EPA:GBT) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Guerbet

How Much Debt Does Guerbet Carry?

As you can see below, Guerbet had €332.0m of debt, at June 2021, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it also had €82.0m in cash, and so its net debt is €250.0m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ENXTPA:GBT Debt to Equity History October 26th 2021

A Look At Guerbet's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Guerbet had liabilities of €212.0m due within 12 months, and liabilities of €361.0m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €82.0m as well as receivables valued at €131.0m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by €360.0m.

This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of €480.3m. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

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). 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).

With net debt to EBITDA of 2.6 Guerbet has a fairly noticeable amount of debt. But the high interest coverage of 7.2 suggests it can easily service that debt. Sadly, Guerbet's EBIT actually dropped 7.4% in the last year. If earnings continue on that decline then managing that debt will be difficult like delivering hot soup on a unicycle. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Guerbet can strengthen its balance sheet over time. 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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Guerbet recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 89% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

On our analysis Guerbet's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. For example, its EBIT growth rate makes us a little nervous about its debt. We would also note that Medical Equipment industry companies like Guerbet commonly do use debt without problems. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Guerbet's debt levels. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Guerbet you should be aware of.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

Discounted cash flow calculation for every stock

Simply Wall St does a detailed discounted cash flow calculation every 6 hours for every stock on the market, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any company just search here. It’s FREE.

Make Confident Investment Decisions

Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.