Stock Analysis

Vistar Holdings (HKG:8535) Seems To Use Debt Rather Sparingly

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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. As with many other companies Vistar Holdings Limited (HKG:8535) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Vistar Holdings

What Is Vistar Holdings's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of March 2021, Vistar Holdings had HK$14.5m of debt, up from HK$4.86m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, its balance sheet shows it holds HK$60.3m in cash, so it actually has HK$45.8m net cash.

SEHK:8535 Debt to Equity History September 21st 2021

A Look At Vistar Holdings' Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Vistar Holdings had liabilities of HK$90.4m due within a year, and liabilities of HK$4.77m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had HK$60.3m in cash and HK$159.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it can boast HK$124.6m more liquid assets than total liabilities.

It's good to see that Vistar Holdings has plenty of liquidity on its balance sheet, suggesting conservative management of liabilities. Given it has easily adequate short term liquidity, we don't think it will have any issues with its lenders. Simply put, the fact that Vistar Holdings has more cash than debt is arguably a good indication that it can manage its debt safely.

Even more impressive was the fact that Vistar Holdings grew its EBIT by 237% over twelve months. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Vistar Holdings 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. While Vistar Holdings has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. In the last three years, Vistar Holdings's free cash flow amounted to 25% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Summing up

While we empathize with investors who find debt concerning, you should keep in mind that Vistar Holdings has net cash of HK$45.8m, as well as more liquid assets than liabilities. And we liked the look of last year's 237% year-on-year EBIT growth. So is Vistar Holdings's debt a risk? It doesn't seem so to us. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for Vistar Holdings you should be aware of, and 1 of them is a bit concerning.

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.

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