Stock Analysis

We Think Ocado Group (LON:OCDO) Has A Fair Chunk Of Debt

LSE:OCDO
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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.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We can see that Ocado Group plc (LON:OCDO) does use debt in its business. 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. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Ocado Group

How Much Debt Does Ocado Group Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at May 2023 Ocado Group had debt of UK£1.39b, up from UK£1.32b in one year. However, it also had UK£1.01b in cash, and so its net debt is UK£384.7m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
LSE:OCDO Debt to Equity History July 31st 2023

A Look At Ocado Group's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Ocado Group had liabilities of UK£569.9m due within 12 months, and liabilities of UK£2.27b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of UK£1.01b as well as receivables valued at UK£308.9m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by UK£1.52b.

Of course, Ocado Group has a titanic market capitalization of UK£7.97b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Ocado 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.

Over 12 months, Ocado Group reported revenue of UK£2.6b, which is a gain of 7.4%, although it did not report any earnings before interest and tax. That rate of growth is a bit slow for our taste, but it takes all types to make a world.

Caveat Emptor

Importantly, Ocado Group had an earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss over the last year. To be specific the EBIT loss came in at UK£420m. When we look at that and recall the liabilities on its balance sheet, relative to cash, it seems unwise to us for the company to have any debt. Quite frankly we think the balance sheet is far from match-fit, although it could be improved with time. However, it doesn't help that it burned through UK£701m of cash over the last year. So suffice it to say we consider the stock very risky. 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. We've identified 2 warning signs with Ocado Group (at least 1 which is a bit concerning) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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 Ocado 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.

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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.