Stock Analysis

We Think Puxing Energy (HKG:90) Is Taking Some Risk With Its Debt

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SEHK:90
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David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the 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 Puxing Energy Limited (HKG:90) 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. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. 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 Puxing Energy

What Is Puxing Energy's Debt?

As you can see below, Puxing Energy had CN¥522.8m of debt, at June 2020, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of CN¥90.2m, its net debt is less, at about CN¥432.5m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SEHK:90 Debt to Equity History December 30th 2020

How Healthy Is Puxing Energy's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Puxing Energy had liabilities of CN¥192.6m due within a year, and liabilities of CN¥457.2m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CN¥90.2m as well as receivables valued at CN¥86.9m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CN¥472.6m.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the CN¥220.4m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Puxing Energy 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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Puxing Energy's debt is 2.7 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 4.5 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Puxing Energy grew its EBIT by 5.9% in the last year. Whilst that hardly knocks our socks off it is a positive when it comes to debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Puxing Energy's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Puxing Energy actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

Puxing Energy's level of total liabilities and net debt to EBITDA 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. Taking the abovementioned factors together we do think Puxing Energy's debt poses some risks to the business. So while that leverage does boost returns on equity, we wouldn't really want to see it increase from here. 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. For example, we've discovered 3 warning signs for Puxing Energy (1 is potentially serious!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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