Is DCM (NSE:DCM) A Risky Investment?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 18, 2022
NSEI:DCM
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.' 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 DCM Limited (NSE:DCM) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for DCM

What Is DCM's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of September 2021, DCM had ₹332.5m of debt, up from ₹249.1m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. On the flip side, it has ₹83.5m in cash leading to net debt of about ₹249.0m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:DCM Debt to Equity History March 18th 2022

How Strong Is DCM's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that DCM had liabilities of ₹808.5m due within 12 months and liabilities of ₹335.5m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had ₹83.5m in cash and ₹113.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total ₹947.1m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since DCM has a market capitalization of ₹1.63b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

While DCM has a quite reasonable net debt to EBITDA multiple of 1.7, its interest cover seems weak, at 1.1. This does have us wondering if the company pays high interest because it is considered risky. In any case, it's safe to say the company has meaningful debt. We also note that DCM improved its EBIT from a last year's loss to a positive ₹81m. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is DCM's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. 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.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. During the last year, DCM burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.

Our View

On the face of it, DCM's interest cover left us tentative about the stock, and its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. Having said that, its ability handle its debt, based on its EBITDA, isn't such a worry. Looking at the bigger picture, it seems clear to us that DCM's use of debt is creating risks for the company. If everything goes well that may pay off but the downside of this debt is a greater risk of permanent losses. 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. For instance, we've identified 4 warning signs for DCM (1 doesn't sit too well with us) you should be aware of.

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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