- Hong Kong
- Telecom Services and Carriers
Is HKT Trust and HKT (HKG:6823) A Risky Investment?
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 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 HKT Trust and HKT Limited (HKG:6823) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
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 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. 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 HKT Trust and HKT
What Is HKT Trust and HKT's Net Debt?
As you can see below, HKT Trust and HKT had HK$44.1b of debt, at December 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it also had HK$2.13b in cash, and so its net debt is HK$42.0b.
A Look At HKT Trust and HKT's Liabilities
According to the last reported balance sheet, HKT Trust and HKT had liabilities of HK$22.6b due within 12 months, and liabilities of HK$52.2b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had HK$2.13b in cash and HK$3.92b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling HK$68.7b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
This deficit is considerable relative to its very significant market capitalization of HK$78.8b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on HKT Trust and HKT's use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.
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.
HKT Trust and HKT's debt is 4.4 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 4.6 times over. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. We saw HKT Trust and HKT grow its EBIT by 2.1% in the last twelve months. That's far from incredible but it is a good thing, when it comes to paying off debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if HKT Trust and HKT 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.
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. During the last three years, HKT Trust and HKT produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 77% 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.
HKT Trust and HKT's net debt to EBITDA and level of total liabilities definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that HKT Trust and HKT is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. 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 HKT Trust and HKT is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is concerning...
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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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.
HKT Trust and HKT
HKT Trust and HKT Limited provides telecommunications services in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and internationally.
Proven track record and fair value.