These 4 Measures Indicate That MRF (NSE:MRF) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

Simply Wall St
March 19, 2022
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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.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. We note that MRF Limited (NSE:MRF) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for MRF

What Is MRF's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at September 2021 MRF had debt of ₹25.9b, up from ₹22.6b in one year. But on the other hand it also has ₹36.6b in cash, leading to a ₹10.8b net cash position.

NSEI:MRF Debt to Equity History March 19th 2022

How Strong Is MRF's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, MRF had liabilities of ₹70.8b due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₹21.6b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had ₹36.6b in cash and ₹23.8b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling ₹32.0b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Since publicly traded MRF shares are worth a total of ₹292.6b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, MRF boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

It is just as well that MRF's load is not too heavy, because its EBIT was down 32% over the last year. When a company sees its earnings tank, it can sometimes find its relationships with its lenders turn sour. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if MRF can strengthen its balance sheet over time. 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. MRF may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. In the last three years, MRF's free cash flow amounted to 43% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Summing up

While MRF does have more liabilities than liquid assets, it also has net cash of ₹10.8b. So we don't have any problem with MRF's use of debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for MRF you should know about.

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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