Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. Importantly, Mondi plc (LON:MNDI) does carry debt. 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. 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. 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.
What Is Mondi's Net Debt?
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Mondi had €1.99b in debt in December 2020; about the same as the year before. However, it does have €383.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about €1.61b.
How Strong Is Mondi's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Mondi had liabilities of €1.39b due within a year, and liabilities of €2.60b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of €383.0m and €993.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by €2.61b.
Mondi has a very large market capitalization of €10.4b, 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.
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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Mondi has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.2. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 10.0 times over. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. In fact Mondi's saving grace is its low debt levels, because its EBIT has tanked 22% in the last twelve months. Falling earnings (if the trend continues) could eventually make even modest debt quite risky. 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 Mondi can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Mondi produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 55% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.
Mondi's struggle to grow its EBIT had us second guessing its balance sheet strength, but the other data-points we considered were relatively redeeming. In particular, its interest cover was re-invigorating. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Mondi is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example - Mondi has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
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.
When trading Mondi or any other investment, use the platform considered by many to be the Professional's Gateway to the Worlds Market, Interactive Brokers. You get the lowest-cost* trading on stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds worldwide from a single integrated account. Promoted
Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.
Find out whether Mondi 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
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
*Interactive Brokers Rated Lowest Cost Broker by StockBrokers.com Annual Online Review 2020
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
Mondi plc engages in the manufacture and sale of packaging and paper products in Africa, Western Europe, Emerging Europe, Russia, North America, South America, Asia, and Australia.
Flawless balance sheet with outstanding track record and pays a dividend.