Stock Analysis

C&C Group (LON:CCR) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

LSE:CCR
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David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. Importantly, C&C Group plc (LON:CCR) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for C&C Group

What Is C&C Group's Net Debt?

As you can see below, C&C Group had €203.3m of debt at August 2023, down from €236.3m a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of €96.6m, its net debt is less, at about €106.7m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
LSE:CCR Debt to Equity History December 21st 2023

How Healthy Is C&C Group's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, C&C Group had liabilities of €490.8m due within 12 months, and liabilities of €308.7m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had €96.6m in cash and €266.6m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €436.3m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of €678.5m, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on C&C Group's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

While C&C Group's low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.2 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 4.0 times last year does give us pause. But the interest payments are certainly sufficient to have us thinking about how affordable its debt is. Importantly, C&C Group's EBIT fell a jaw-dropping 27% in the last twelve months. If that decline continues then paying off debt will be harder than selling foie gras at a vegan convention. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine C&C Group's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Looking at the most recent two years, C&C Group recorded free cash flow of 47% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

Mulling over C&C Group's attempt at (not) growing its EBIT, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But at least it's pretty decent at managing its debt, based on its EBITDA,; that's encouraging. Looking at the balance sheet and taking into account all these factors, we do believe that debt is making C&C Group stock a bit risky. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we'd generally feel more comfortable with less leverage. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for C&C Group that you should be aware of before investing here.

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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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.