Stock Analysis

We Think Sunflower Sustainable Investments (TLV:SNFL) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

TASE:SNFL
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. We note that Sunflower Sustainable Investments Ltd (TLV:SNFL) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Sunflower Sustainable Investments

What Is Sunflower Sustainable Investments's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Sunflower Sustainable Investments had debt of ₪113.8m at the end of December 2020, a reduction from ₪129.6m over a year. However, it does have ₪80.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₪33.9m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TASE:SNFL Debt to Equity History April 14th 2021

How Strong Is Sunflower Sustainable Investments' Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Sunflower Sustainable Investments had liabilities of ₪23.8m falling due within a year, and liabilities of ₪126.1m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had ₪80.0m in cash and ₪15.2m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₪54.7m.

Since publicly traded Sunflower Sustainable Investments shares are worth a total of ₪293.8m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.

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).

Looking at its net debt to EBITDA of 0.85 and interest cover of 3.8 times, it seems to us that Sunflower Sustainable Investments is probably using debt in a pretty reasonable way. So we'd recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. Unfortunately, Sunflower Sustainable Investments saw its EBIT slide 9.4% in the last twelve months. If earnings continue on that decline then managing that debt will be difficult like delivering hot soup on a unicycle. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Sunflower Sustainable Investments will need earnings to service that debt. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Sunflower Sustainable Investments actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for Sunflower Sustainable Investments was the fact that it seems able to convert EBIT to free cash flow confidently. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. For instance it seems like it has to struggle a bit to grow its EBIT. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Sunflower Sustainable Investments is managing its debt quite well. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. 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. We've identified 3 warning signs with Sunflower Sustainable Investments , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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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