Here's Why BF Utilities (NSE:BFUTILITIE) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden
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.' 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, BF Utilities Limited (NSE:BFUTILITIE) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
When Is Debt Dangerous?
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. 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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
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What Is BF Utilities's Debt?
As you can see below, BF Utilities had ₹16.6b of debt, at September 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it does have ₹3.07b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₹13.5b.
A Look At BF Utilities' Liabilities
According to the last reported balance sheet, BF Utilities had liabilities of ₹3.75b due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₹17.2b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of ₹3.07b as well as receivables valued at ₹393.7m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total ₹17.4b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's ₹11.9b 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.
BF Utilities's debt is 2.9 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 2.5 times over. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. The good news is that BF Utilities grew its EBIT a smooth 57% over the last twelve months. Like the milk of human kindness that sort of growth increases resilience, making the company more capable of managing debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is BF Utilities'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 we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, BF Utilities generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 88% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.
We feel some trepidation about BF Utilities's difficulty level of total liabilities, but we've got positives to focus on, too. For example, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and EBIT growth rate give us some confidence in its ability to manage its debt. We think that BF Utilities'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. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for BF Utilities that you should be aware of.
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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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.
BF Utilities Limited, together with its subsidiaries, primarily engages in the infrastructure business in India.
Solid track record and fair value.