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.' 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. As with many other companies Mondi plc (LON:MNDI) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is Mondi's Debt?
As you can see below, Mondi had €2.09b of debt at June 2021, down from €2.52b a year prior. On the flip side, it has €296.0m in cash leading to net debt of about €1.80b.
How Strong Is Mondi's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Mondi had liabilities of €1.63b due within a year, and liabilities of €2.69b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had €296.0m in cash and €1.33b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €2.69b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Mondi has a very large market capitalization of €10.3b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.
We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Mondi has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.4. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 10.5 times over. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. But the bad news is that Mondi has seen its EBIT plunge 12% in the last twelve months. If that rate of decline in earnings continues, the company could find itself in a tight spot. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Mondi recorded free cash flow worth 55% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
On our analysis Mondi's interest cover should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. In particular, EBIT growth rate gives us cold feet. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Mondi's use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. 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.
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.
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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.