Sinomax Group (HKG:1418) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

Published
April 28, 2022
SEHK:1418
Source: Shutterstock

Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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 Sinomax Group Limited (HKG:1418) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Sinomax Group

What Is Sinomax Group's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of December 2021 Sinomax Group had HK$588.3m of debt, an increase on HK$547.2m, over one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of HK$228.5m, its net debt is less, at about HK$359.7m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SEHK:1418 Debt to Equity History April 28th 2022

How Strong Is Sinomax Group's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Sinomax Group had liabilities of HK$1.53b due within 12 months, and liabilities of HK$292.4m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had HK$228.5m in cash and HK$974.6m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total HK$619.1m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit casts a shadow over the HK$315.0m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Sinomax Group would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

While we wouldn't worry about Sinomax Group's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.7, we think its super-low interest cover of 0.65 times is a sign of high leverage. It seems that the business incurs large depreciation and amortisation charges, so maybe its debt load is heavier than it would first appear, since EBITDA is arguably a generous measure of earnings. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Even worse, Sinomax Group saw its EBIT tank 51% over the last 12 months. If earnings keep going like that over the long term, it has a snowball's chance in hell of paying off that debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Sinomax Group will need earnings to service that debt. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last two years, Sinomax Group actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

To be frank both Sinomax Group's EBIT growth rate and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. We're quite clear that we consider Sinomax Group to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. So we're almost as wary of this stock as a hungry kitten is about falling into its owner's fish pond: once bitten, twice shy, as they say. 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. To that end, you should learn about the 4 warning signs we've spotted with Sinomax Group (including 1 which is a bit unpleasant) .

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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About SEHK:1418

Sinomax Group

Sinomax Group Limited, an investment holding company, manufactures, and sells health and household products, and polyurethane foam.

Adequate balance sheet unattractive dividend payer.