Stock Analysis

We Think Isras Investment (TLV:ISRS) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

TASE:ISRS
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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. As with many other companies Isras Investment Company Ltd (TLV:ISRS) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

View our latest analysis for Isras Investment

What Is Isras Investment's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2020, Isras Investment had ₪3.57b of debt, up from ₪3.10b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had ₪984.9m in cash, and so its net debt is ₪2.59b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TASE:ISRS Debt to Equity History April 12th 2021

How Healthy Is Isras Investment's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Isras Investment had liabilities of ₪687.7m due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₪3.97b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of ₪984.9m and ₪159.8m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₪3.51b.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's ₪3.46b market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Isras Investment has a rather high debt to EBITDA ratio of 6.7 which suggests a meaningful debt load. However, its interest coverage of 4.9 is reasonably strong, which is a good sign. Also relevant is that Isras Investment has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 26% 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 you can't view debt in total isolation; since Isras Investment will need earnings to service that debt. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Isras Investment produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 80% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

Based on what we've seen Isras Investment is not finding it easy, given its net debt to EBITDA, but the other factors we considered give us cause to be optimistic. In particular, we are dazzled with its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Isras Investment's use of debt. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we'd suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. 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. For example Isras Investment has 4 warning signs (and 1 which makes us a bit uncomfortable) we think you should know about.

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.

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