These 4 Measures Indicate That Joules Group (LON:JOUL) Is Using Debt Extensively

Published
March 10, 2022
AIM:JOUL
Source: Shutterstock

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 can see that Joules Group Plc (LON:JOUL) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Joules Group

What Is Joules Group's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of November 2021, Joules Group had UK£22.4m of debt, up from UK£12.9m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had UK£17.0m in cash, and so its net debt is UK£5.37m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
AIM:JOUL Debt to Equity History March 10th 2022

How Strong Is Joules Group's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Joules Group had liabilities of UK£103.3m falling due within a year, and liabilities of UK£37.1m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had UK£17.0m in cash and UK£21.3m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total UK£102.1m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the UK£55.7m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Joules Group 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.

Joules Group has a very low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.0 so it is strange to see weak interest coverage, with last year's EBIT being only 1.3 times the interest expense. So while we're not necessarily alarmed we think that its debt is far from trivial. Notably, Joules Group made a loss at the EBIT level, last year, but improved that to positive EBIT of UK£2.0m in the last twelve months. 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 Joules 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it is important to check how much of its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) converts to actual free cash flow. Over the last year, Joules Group saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

On the face of it, Joules Group's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But on the bright side, its net debt to EBITDA is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. After considering the datapoints discussed, we think Joules Group has too much debt. While some investors love that sort of risky play, it's certainly not our cup of tea. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Be aware that Joules Group is showing 4 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is significant...

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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

Find out whether Joules Group 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