Is Midea Real Estate Holding (HKG:3990) A Risky Investment?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 17, 2022
SEHK:3990
Source: Shutterstock

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.' 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. As with many other companies Midea Real Estate Holding Limited (HKG:3990) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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 frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Midea Real Estate Holding

What Is Midea Real Estate Holding's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Midea Real Estate Holding had CN¥56.3b in debt in December 2021; about the same as the year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of CN¥26.3b, its net debt is less, at about CN¥30.0b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SEHK:3990 Debt to Equity History April 17th 2022

A Look At Midea Real Estate Holding's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Midea Real Estate Holding had liabilities of CN¥198.8b due within a year, and liabilities of CN¥41.9b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had CN¥26.3b in cash and CN¥42.1b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CN¥172.3b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit casts a shadow over the CN¥16.4b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Midea Real Estate Holding would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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.

Midea Real Estate Holding's net debt is 3.8 times its EBITDA, which is a significant but still reasonable amount of leverage. However, its interest coverage of 1k is very high, suggesting that the interest expense on the debt is currently quite low. Midea Real Estate Holding grew its EBIT by 5.6% in the last year. Whilst that hardly knocks our socks off it is a positive when it comes to 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 Midea Real Estate Holding'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 last three years, Midea Real Estate Holding recorded negative free cash flow, in total. Debt is usually more expensive, and almost always more risky in the hands of a company with negative free cash flow. Shareholders ought to hope for an improvement.

Our View

On the face of it, Midea Real Estate Holding's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least it's pretty decent at covering its interest expense with its EBIT; that's encouraging. Overall, it seems to us that Midea Real Estate Holding's balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Be aware that Midea Real Estate Holding is showing 4 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is a bit unpleasant...

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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