These 4 Measures Indicate That Moneysupermarket.com Group (LON:MONY) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 23, 2022
LSE:MONY
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, '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. We can see that Moneysupermarket.com Group PLC (LON:MONY) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Moneysupermarket.com Group

What Is Moneysupermarket.com Group's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2021 Moneysupermarket.com Group had debt of UK£57.5m, up from none in one year. On the flip side, it has UK£12.5m in cash leading to net debt of about UK£45.0m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
LSE:MONY Debt to Equity History March 23rd 2022

How Strong Is Moneysupermarket.com Group's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Moneysupermarket.com Group had liabilities of UK£107.8m due within 12 months, and liabilities of UK£103.6m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had UK£12.5m in cash and UK£61.5m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by UK£137.4m.

Since publicly traded Moneysupermarket.com Group shares are worth a total of UK£1.08b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse.

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). 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).

Moneysupermarket.com Group has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.54. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 38.5 times over. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. On the other hand, Moneysupermarket.com Group's EBIT dived 11%, over the last year. We think hat kind of performance, if repeated frequently, could well lead to difficulties for the stock. 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 Moneysupermarket.com Group's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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, Moneysupermarket.com Group generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 80% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

Happily, Moneysupermarket.com Group's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But the stark truth is that we are concerned by its EBIT growth rate. Taking all this data into account, it seems to us that Moneysupermarket.com Group takes a pretty sensible approach to debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Moneysupermarket.com Group you should know about.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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