Stock Analysis

These 4 Measures Indicate That Viva Biotech Holdings (HKG:1873) Is Using Debt In A Risky Way

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SEHK:1873
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Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 Viva Biotech Holdings (HKG:1873) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Viva Biotech Holdings

What Is Viva Biotech Holdings's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2022 Viva Biotech Holdings had CN¥2.78b of debt, an increase on CN¥2.34b, over one year. On the flip side, it has CN¥712.2m in cash leading to net debt of about CN¥2.07b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SEHK:1873 Debt to Equity History September 25th 2022

A Look At Viva Biotech Holdings' Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Viva Biotech Holdings had liabilities of CN¥1.13b falling due within a year, and liabilities of CN¥3.09b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had CN¥712.2m in cash and CN¥559.3m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CN¥2.95b.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of CN¥2.34b, we think shareholders really should watch Viva Biotech Holdings's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Weak interest cover of 1.3 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 6.0 hit our confidence in Viva Biotech Holdings like a one-two punch to the gut. The debt burden here is substantial. Investors should also be troubled by the fact that Viva Biotech Holdings saw its EBIT drop by 11% over the last twelve months. If that's the way things keep going handling the debt load will be like delivering hot coffees on a pogo stick. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Viva Biotech Holdings's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Viva Biotech Holdings saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

On the face of it, Viva Biotech Holdings's interest cover left us tentative about the stock, and its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. And furthermore, its level of total liabilities also fails to instill confidence. We think the chances that Viva Biotech Holdings has too much debt a very significant. To us, that makes the stock rather risky, like walking through a dog park with your eyes closed. But some investors may feel differently. 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. We've identified 2 warning signs with Viva Biotech Holdings (at least 1 which shouldn't be ignored) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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

Find out whether Viva Biotech 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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About SEHK:1873

Viva Biotech Holdings

Viva Biotech Holdings, an investment holding company, provides structure-based drug discovery services to biotechnology and pharmaceutical customers worldwide.

The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.

Analysis AreaScore (0-6)
Valuation1
Future Growth0
Past Performance2
Financial Health1
Dividends0

Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.

Questionable track record and overvalued.