Here's Why Imerys (EPA:NK) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
August 17, 2021
ENXTPA:NK
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 seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies Imerys S.A. (EPA:NK) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Imerys

How Much Debt Does Imerys Carry?

As you can see below, Imerys had €2.05b of debt at June 2021, down from €2.52b a year prior. On the flip side, it has €695.4m in cash leading to net debt of about €1.35b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ENXTPA:NK Debt to Equity History August 18th 2021

A Look At Imerys' Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Imerys had liabilities of €1.45b due within a year, and liabilities of €2.67b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of €695.4m and €890.4m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling €2.54b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of €3.33b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Imerys' use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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

We'd say that Imerys's moderate net debt to EBITDA ratio ( being 2.1), indicates prudence when it comes to debt. And its commanding EBIT of 10.7 times its interest expense, implies the debt load is as light as a peacock feather. It is well worth noting that Imerys's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 34% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier to manage its debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Imerys 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Imerys produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 58% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

Happily, Imerys's impressive EBIT growth rate implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its level of total liabilities. All these things considered, it appears that Imerys can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example - Imerys has 3 warning signs we think 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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