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Here's Why Weir Group (LON:WEIR) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly
The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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. We note that The Weir Group PLC (LON:WEIR) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
Check out our latest analysis for Weir Group
What Is Weir Group's Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of December 2022 Weir Group had UK£1.49b of debt, an increase on UK£1.23b, over one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of UK£691.2m, its net debt is less, at about UK£797.2m.
A Look At Weir Group's Liabilities
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Weir Group had liabilities of UK£1.09b falling due within a year, and liabilities of UK£1.23b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had UK£691.2m in cash and UK£570.2m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total UK£1.06b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
This deficit isn't so bad because Weir Group is worth UK£4.52b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Weir Group has net debt worth 1.9 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 6.5 times the interest expense. While that doesn't worry us too much, it does suggest the interest payments are somewhat of a burden. We note that Weir Group grew its EBIT by 21% in the last year, and that should make it easier to pay down debt, going forward. 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 Weir Group can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Weir Group produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 71% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
Happily, Weir Group's impressive conversion of EBIT to free cash flow implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And the good news does not stop there, as its EBIT growth rate also supports that impression! Taking all this data into account, it seems to us that Weir Group takes a pretty sensible approach to debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. Be aware that Weir Group is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about...
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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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.
The Weir Group PLC produces and sells highly engineered original equipment worldwide.
Solid track record with excellent balance sheet and pays a dividend.