Is Jiayuan International Group (HKG:2768) Using Too Much Debt?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 15, 2021
SEHK:2768
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 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. We can see that Jiayuan International Group Limited (HKG:2768) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Jiayuan International Group

How Much Debt Does Jiayuan International Group Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2021, Jiayuan International Group had CN¥24.6b of debt, up from CN¥20.3b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of CN¥10.6b, its net debt is less, at about CN¥14.0b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SEHK:2768 Debt to Equity History December 15th 2021

How Strong Is Jiayuan International Group's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Jiayuan International Group had liabilities of CN¥47.7b due within 12 months and liabilities of CN¥15.9b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of CN¥10.6b and CN¥1.14b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CN¥51.9b.

This deficit casts a shadow over the CN¥11.5b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Jiayuan International Group would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Jiayuan International Group has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.9, which signals significant debt, but is still pretty reasonable for most types of business. However, its interest coverage of 1k is very high, suggesting that the interest expense on the debt is currently quite low. Unfortunately, Jiayuan International Group's EBIT flopped 10% over the last four quarters. If earnings continue to decline at that rate then handling the debt will be more difficult than taking three children under 5 to a fancy pants restaurant. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Jiayuan International Group'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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Jiayuan International Group produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 67% 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.

Our View

Mulling over Jiayuan International Group's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But on the bright side, its interest cover is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Jiayuan International Group has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Jiayuan International Group (including 1 which is potentially serious) .

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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