- Basic Materials
These 4 Measures Indicate That Imerys (EPA:NK) Is Using Debt Extensively
Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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 can see that Imerys S.A. (EPA:NK) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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.
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What Is Imerys's Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of December 2022 Imerys had €2.15b of debt, an increase on €1.85b, over one year. On the flip side, it has €620.2m in cash leading to net debt of about €1.53b.
How Strong Is Imerys' Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Imerys had liabilities of €2.02b due within a year, and liabilities of €2.47b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of €620.2m and €698.3m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total €3.17b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of €3.31b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Imerys' use of debt. 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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Imerys's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 2.2 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its commanding EBIT of 12.5 times its interest expense, implies the debt load is as light as a peacock feather. Sadly, Imerys's EBIT actually dropped 3.5% in the last year. If that earnings trend continues then its debt load will grow heavy like the heart of a polar bear watching its sole cub. 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 Imerys's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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. In the last three years, Imerys's free cash flow amounted to 45% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.
Neither Imerys's ability to handle its total liabilities nor its EBIT growth rate gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But its interest cover tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. When we consider all the factors discussed, it seems to us that Imerys is taking some risks with its use of debt. So while that leverage does boost returns on equity, we wouldn't really want to see it increase from here. 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 instance, we've identified 4 warning signs for Imerys that you should be aware of.
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.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
Imerys S.A. provides mineral-based specialty solutions for various industries worldwide.
Excellent balance sheet with moderate growth potential.