Stock Analysis

Pan Asia Data Holdings (HKG:1561) Is Making Moderate Use Of Debt

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The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. We can see that Pan Asia Data Holdings Inc. (HKG:1561) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. 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. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

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What Is Pan Asia Data Holdings's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2021, Pan Asia Data Holdings had HK$717.0m of debt, up from HK$670.2m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have HK$244.7m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about HK$472.3m.

SEHK:1561 Debt to Equity History September 30th 2021

How Healthy Is Pan Asia Data Holdings' Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Pan Asia Data Holdings had liabilities of HK$1.13b due within 12 months, and liabilities of HK$71.1m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had HK$244.7m in cash and HK$316.9m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling HK$640.8m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Pan Asia Data Holdings has a market capitalization of HK$1.98b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is Pan Asia Data Holdings's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

In the last year Pan Asia Data Holdings had a loss before interest and tax, and actually shrunk its revenue by 48%, to HK$471m. That makes us nervous, to say the least.

Caveat Emptor

While Pan Asia Data Holdings's falling revenue is about as heartwarming as a wet blanket, arguably its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss is even less appealing. To be specific the EBIT loss came in at HK$131m. When we look at that and recall the liabilities on its balance sheet, relative to cash, it seems unwise to us for the company to have any debt. So we think its balance sheet is a little strained, though not beyond repair. Another cause for caution is that is bled HK$59m in negative free cash flow over the last twelve months. So to be blunt we think it is risky. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Pan Asia Data Holdings (1 can't be ignored!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

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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