China Kepei Education Group (HKG:1890) Could Easily Take On More Debt

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 30, 2021
SEHK:1890
Source: Shutterstock

Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. We note that China Kepei Education Group Limited (HKG:1890) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for China Kepei Education Group

What Is China Kepei Education Group's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2021 China Kepei Education Group had debt of CN¥1.46b, up from CN¥385.9m in one year. However, its balance sheet shows it holds CN¥1.46b in cash, so it actually has CN¥5.41m net cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SEHK:1890 Debt to Equity History November 30th 2021

How Healthy Is China Kepei Education Group's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that China Kepei Education Group had liabilities of CN¥2.38b due within a year, and liabilities of CN¥631.6m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of CN¥1.46b and CN¥42.1m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total CN¥1.51b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit isn't so bad because China Kepei Education Group is worth CN¥7.00b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk. While it does have liabilities worth noting, China Kepei Education Group also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.

On top of that, China Kepei Education Group grew its EBIT by 32% 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 ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if China Kepei Education Group 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, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. China Kepei Education Group may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. During the last three years, China Kepei Education Group produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 59% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Summing up

Although China Kepei Education Group's balance sheet isn't particularly strong, due to the total liabilities, it is clearly positive to see that it has net cash of CN¥5.41m. And we liked the look of last year's 32% year-on-year EBIT growth. So is China Kepei Education Group's debt a risk? It doesn't seem so to us. 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. For example - China Kepei Education Group has 1 warning sign 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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