Stock Analysis

Is Ramsay Générale de Santé (EPA:GDS) Using Too Much Debt?

Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We note that Ramsay Générale de Santé SA (EPA:GDS) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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

See our latest analysis for Ramsay Générale de Santé

What Is Ramsay Générale de Santé's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2022, Ramsay Générale de Santé had €1.97b of debt, up from €1.80b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of €220.9m, its net debt is less, at about €1.75b.

ENXTPA:GDS Debt to Equity History March 15th 2023

How Healthy Is Ramsay Générale de Santé's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Ramsay Générale de Santé had liabilities of €1.49b falling due within a year, and liabilities of €4.23b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of €220.9m and €376.4m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling €5.12b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the €2.14b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. At the end of the day, Ramsay Générale de Santé would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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

With a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 6.9, it's fair to say Ramsay Générale de Santé does have a significant amount of debt. However, its interest coverage of 2.6 is reasonably strong, which is a good sign. On a lighter note, we note that Ramsay Générale de Santé grew its EBIT by 29% in the last year. If it can maintain that kind of improvement, its debt load will begin to melt away like glaciers in a warming world. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is Ramsay Générale de Santé's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Ramsay Générale de Santé actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

While Ramsay Générale de Santé's level of total liabilities has us nervous. For example, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and EBIT growth rate give us some confidence in its ability to manage its debt. It's also worth noting that Ramsay Générale de Santé is in the Healthcare industry, which is often considered to be quite defensive. When we consider all the factors discussed, it seems to us that Ramsay Générale de Santé is taking some risks with its use of debt. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Ramsay Générale de Santé (1 shouldn't be ignored!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Ramsay Générale de Santé is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

View the Free Analysis