Stock Analysis

Here's Why Mediterra (ATH:MSHOP) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

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ATSE:MSHOP
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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. We note that Mediterra S.A. (ATH:MSHOP) does have debt on its balance sheet. 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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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.

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What Is Mediterra's Debt?

As you can see below, Mediterra had €1.77m of debt at June 2022, down from €2.39m a year prior. However, it also had €1.68m in cash, and so its net debt is €92.8k.

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ATSE:MSHOP Debt to Equity History November 17th 2022

A Look At Mediterra's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Mediterra had liabilities of €6.19m due within a year, and liabilities of €917.8k falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of €1.68m and €3.40m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling €2.02m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Since publicly traded Mediterra shares are worth a total of €11.8m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. But either way, Mediterra has virtually no net debt, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

Importantly, Mediterra grew its EBIT by 46% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Mediterra will need earnings to service that debt. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. 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, Mediterra burned a lot of cash. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

Mediterra's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a real negative on this analysis, although the other factors we considered were considerably better. In particular, we are dazzled with its EBIT growth rate. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Mediterra is managing its debt quite well. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Mediterra (of which 1 is significant!) you should know about.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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