Would Gusbourne (LON:GUS) Be Better Off With Less Debt?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
June 07, 2021
AIM:GUS
Source: Shutterstock

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.' 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 Gusbourne PLC (LON:GUS) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. 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.

View our latest analysis for Gusbourne

What Is Gusbourne's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2020, Gusbourne had UK£12.3m of debt, up from UK£8.41m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had UK£262.0k in cash, and so its net debt is UK£12.0m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
AIM:GUS Debt to Equity History June 8th 2021

How Healthy Is Gusbourne's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Gusbourne had liabilities of UK£6.54m due within a year, and liabilities of UK£8.63m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of UK£262.0k as well as receivables valued at UK£869.0k due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by UK£14.0m.

Gusbourne has a market capitalization of UK£37.2m, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Gusbourne will need earnings to service that debt. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

Over 12 months, Gusbourne reported revenue of UK£2.1m, which is a gain of 27%, although it did not report any earnings before interest and tax. With any luck the company will be able to grow its way to profitability.

Caveat Emptor

Despite the top line growth, Gusbourne still had an earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss over the last year. Indeed, it lost UK£2.2m at the EBIT level. 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. So we think its balance sheet is a little strained, though not beyond repair. Another cause for caution is that is bled UK£3.7m in negative free cash flow over the last twelve months. So in short it's a really risky stock. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 4 warning signs for Gusbourne you should be aware of, and 2 of them don't sit too well with us.

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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