Stock Analysis

Azrieli Group (TLV:AZRG) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

TASE:AZRG
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.' 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. Importantly, Azrieli Group Ltd (TLV:AZRG) 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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

View our latest analysis for Azrieli Group

What Is Azrieli Group's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2023, Azrieli Group had ₪19.8b of debt, up from ₪15.6b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have ₪1.25b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₪18.5b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TASE:AZRG Debt to Equity History September 5th 2023

How Strong Is Azrieli Group's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Azrieli Group had liabilities of ₪4.62b due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₪22.6b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of ₪1.25b as well as receivables valued at ₪449.0m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₪25.5b.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's ₪24.2b market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

Weak interest cover of 2.0 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 9.1 hit our confidence in Azrieli Group like a one-two punch to the gut. This means we'd consider it to have a heavy debt load. On the other hand, Azrieli Group grew its EBIT by 20% in the last year. If it can maintain that kind of improvement, its debt load will begin to melt away like glaciers in a warming world. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Azrieli Group'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Azrieli Group generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 82% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

Neither Azrieli Group's ability handle its debt, based on its EBITDA, nor its interest cover gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But the good news is it seems to be able to convert EBIT to free cash flow with ease. We think that Azrieli Group's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Be aware that Azrieli Group is showing 4 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those makes us a bit uncomfortable...

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Azrieli Group is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

View the Free Analysis

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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.