China Logistics Property Holdings (HKG:1589) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

By
Simply Wall St
Published
August 31, 2021
SEHK:1589
Source: Shutterstock

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.' 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 China Logistics Property Holdings Co., Ltd (HKG:1589) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. 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. 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 Logistics Property Holdings

What Is China Logistics Property Holdings's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2021 China Logistics Property Holdings had CN¥9.34b of debt, an increase on CN¥8.80b, over one year. However, it also had CN¥1.07b in cash, and so its net debt is CN¥8.28b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SEHK:1589 Debt to Equity History September 1st 2021

A Look At China Logistics Property Holdings' Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that China Logistics Property Holdings had liabilities of CN¥1.23b due within a year, and liabilities of CN¥11.0b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had CN¥1.07b in cash and CN¥77.9m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling CN¥11.1b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of CN¥11.5b. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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.

China Logistics Property Holdings shareholders face the double whammy of a high net debt to EBITDA ratio (12.9), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 1.5 times the interest expense. The debt burden here is substantial. Looking on the bright side, China Logistics Property Holdings boosted its EBIT by a silky 39% in the last year. Like a mother's loving embrace of a newborn that sort of growth builds resilience, putting the company in a stronger position to manage its debt. 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 China Logistics Property Holdings's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, China Logistics Property Holdings recorded free cash flow worth 65% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

Neither China Logistics Property Holdings's ability handle its debt, based on its EBITDA, nor its interest cover gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But its EBIT growth rate tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that China Logistics Property Holdings is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. 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 instance, we've identified 4 warning signs for China Logistics Property Holdings (2 can't be ignored) you should be aware of.

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.

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