Stock Analysis

Is Gem Diamonds (LON:GEMD) Using Too Much Debt?

LSE:GEMD
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. We can see that Gem Diamonds Limited (LON:GEMD) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Gem Diamonds

What Is Gem Diamonds's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Gem Diamonds had US$14.7m of debt in June 2021, down from US$23.6m, one year before. However, it does have US$33.9m in cash offsetting this, leading to net cash of US$19.2m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
LSE:GEMD Debt to Equity History December 9th 2021

How Healthy Is Gem Diamonds' Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Gem Diamonds had liabilities of US$43.1m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$112.0m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$33.9m as well as receivables valued at US$6.55m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$114.6m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's US$83.6m market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution. Gem Diamonds boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load, even if it does have very significant liabilities, in total.

Even more impressive was the fact that Gem Diamonds grew its EBIT by 406% over twelve months. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. 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 Gem Diamonds 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. Gem Diamonds may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. In the last three years, Gem Diamonds created free cash flow amounting to 4.2% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. That limp level of cash conversion undermines its ability to manage and pay down debt.

Summing up

Although Gem Diamonds's balance sheet isn't particularly strong, due to the total liabilities, it is clearly positive to see that it has net cash of US$19.2m. And we liked the look of last year's 406% year-on-year EBIT growth. So while Gem Diamonds does not have a great balance sheet, it's certainly not too bad. 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. For example, we've discovered 4 warning signs for Gem Diamonds (1 is significant!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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

Find out whether Gem Diamonds 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.