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.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. Importantly, Xiaomi Corporation (HKG:1810) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Xiaomi's Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of March 2022 Xiaomi had CN¥29.7b of debt, an increase on CN¥21.0b, over one year. But on the other hand it also has CN¥76.2b in cash, leading to a CN¥46.5b net cash position.
A Look At Xiaomi's Liabilities
According to the last reported balance sheet, Xiaomi had liabilities of CN¥114.0b due within 12 months, and liabilities of CN¥39.3b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of CN¥76.2b and CN¥22.8b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CN¥54.3b.
Given Xiaomi has a humongous market capitalization of CN¥275.7b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. While it does have liabilities worth noting, Xiaomi also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.
Also good is that Xiaomi grew its EBIT at 19% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Xiaomi can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. While Xiaomi has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. Over the last three years, Xiaomi recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 80% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
While Xiaomi does have more liabilities than liquid assets, it also has net cash of CN¥46.5b. And it impressed us with free cash flow of -CN¥8.8b, being 80% of its EBIT. So we don't think Xiaomi's use of debt is risky. 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 2 warning signs we've spotted with Xiaomi (including 1 which is potentially serious) .
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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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.
Xiaomi Corporation, an investment holding company, provides hardware, software, and internet services in Mainland China, India, Europe, and internationally.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
|Analysis Area||Score (0-6)|
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Excellent balance sheet with moderate growth potential.