Is Knights Group Holdings (LON:KGH) A Risky Investment?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 22, 2022
AIM:KGH
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.' 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 note that Knights Group Holdings plc (LON:KGH) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Knights Group Holdings

How Much Debt Does Knights Group Holdings Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at October 2021 Knights Group Holdings had debt of UK£28.9m, up from UK£19.7m in one year. On the flip side, it has UK£5.52m in cash leading to net debt of about UK£23.3m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
AIM:KGH Debt to Equity History April 22nd 2022

How Healthy Is Knights Group Holdings' Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Knights Group Holdings had liabilities of UK£27.6m due within a year, and liabilities of UK£78.6m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of UK£5.52m and UK£59.6m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by UK£41.1m.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Knights Group Holdings has a market capitalization of UK£113.2m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

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.

Knights Group Holdings's net debt is only 1.0 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 11.1 times the size. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. In addition to that, we're happy to report that Knights Group Holdings has boosted its EBIT by 33%, thus reducing the spectre of future debt repayments. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Knights Group Holdings 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.

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. In the last three years, Knights Group Holdings's free cash flow amounted to 39% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

Knights Group Holdings's EBIT growth rate suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. And the good news does not stop there, as its interest cover also supports that impression! All these things considered, it appears that Knights Group Holdings 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. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. To that end, you should be aware of the 5 warning signs we've spotted with Knights Group Holdings .

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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