Stock Analysis

Here's Why Overseas Commerce (TLV:OVRS) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden

TASE:OVRS
Source: Shutterstock

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. Importantly, Overseas Commerce Ltd. (TLV:OVRS) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

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How Much Debt Does Overseas Commerce Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2021 Overseas Commerce had debt of ₪172.3m, up from ₪147.0m in one year. However, it does have ₪25.1m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₪147.2m.

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TASE:OVRS Debt to Equity History May 11th 2022

How Strong Is Overseas Commerce's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Overseas Commerce had liabilities of ₪98.0m due within a year, and liabilities of ₪386.4m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of ₪25.1m as well as receivables valued at ₪79.1m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₪380.1m.

This deficit casts a shadow over the ₪232.5m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Overseas Commerce would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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

Overseas Commerce has net debt worth 2.5 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 3.3 times the interest expense. While these numbers do not alarm us, it's worth noting that the cost of the company's debt is having a real impact. Unfortunately, Overseas Commerce saw its EBIT slide 8.6% in the last twelve months. If that earnings trend continues then its debt load will grow heavy like the heart of a polar bear watching its sole cub. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is Overseas Commerce'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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Overseas Commerce actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

Mulling over Overseas Commerce's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. It's also worth noting that Overseas Commerce is in the Infrastructure industry, which is often considered to be quite defensive. Looking at the balance sheet and taking into account all these factors, we do believe that debt is making Overseas Commerce stock a bit risky. Some people like that sort of risk, but we're mindful of the potential pitfalls, so we'd probably prefer it carry less debt. 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 Overseas Commerce has 4 warning signs (and 1 which shouldn't be ignored) we think you should know about.

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.

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

Find out whether Overseas Commerce 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.

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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.