Stock Analysis

Does Perennial Energy Holdings (HKG:2798) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

SEHK:2798
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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.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies Perennial Energy Holdings Limited (HKG:2798) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Perennial Energy Holdings

How Much Debt Does Perennial Energy Holdings Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2022, Perennial Energy Holdings had CN¥842.1m of debt, up from CN¥396.0m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have CN¥159.6m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about CN¥682.4m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SEHK:2798 Debt to Equity History October 28th 2022

A Look At Perennial Energy Holdings' Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Perennial Energy Holdings had liabilities of CN¥1.23b due within 12 months, and liabilities of CN¥366.9m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CN¥159.6m as well as receivables valued at CN¥776.8m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CN¥661.6m.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of CN¥1.02b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Perennial Energy Holdings' use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

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.

Perennial Energy Holdings's net debt is only 0.66 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 36.3 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. In addition to that, we're happy to report that Perennial Energy Holdings has boosted its EBIT by 59%, thus reducing the spectre of future debt repayments. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Perennial Energy Holdings 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, Perennial Energy Holdings saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.

Our View

Based on what we've seen Perennial Energy Holdings is not finding it easy, given its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow, but the other factors we considered give us cause to be optimistic. There's no doubt that its ability to to cover its interest expense with its EBIT is pretty flash. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Perennial Energy Holdings's debt levels. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. 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. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Perennial Energy Holdings (including 2 which make us uncomfortable) .

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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Perennial Energy Holdings is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.