We Think Elco (TLV:ELCO) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

August 29, 2021
  •  Updated
December 10, 2021
TASE:ELCO
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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, Elco Ltd. (TLV:ELCO) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Elco

What Is Elco's Net Debt?

As you can see below, Elco had US$950.1m of debt at March 2021, down from US$1.00b a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$365.7m, its net debt is less, at about US$584.4m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TASE:ELCO Debt to Equity History August 30th 2021

A Look At Elco's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Elco had liabilities of US$1.56b due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.09b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$365.7m as well as receivables valued at US$1.10b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$1.18b.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$1.69b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Elco's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

We'd say that Elco's moderate net debt to EBITDA ratio ( being 2.1), indicates prudence when it comes to debt. And its strong interest cover of 14.0 times, makes us even more comfortable. Also relevant is that Elco has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 24% in the last year, thus enhancing its ability to pay down debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Elco'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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Elco recorded free cash flow of 38% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

Elco's interest cover was a real positive on this analysis, as was its EBIT growth rate. On the other hand, its level of total liabilities makes us a little less comfortable about its debt. Considering this range of data points, we think Elco is in a good position to manage its debt levels. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. 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 be aware of the 2 warning signs we've spotted with Elco .

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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About TASE:ELCO

Elco

Elco Ltd. operates in the construction, infrastructure, consumer electronics, telecommunications, entertainment, and real estate sectors in Israel.

The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.

Analysis AreaScore (0-6)
Valuation2
Future Growth0
Past Performance5
Financial Health2
Dividends0

Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.

Solid track record and slightly overvalued.