Stock Analysis

Here's Why Indian Hume Pipe (NSE:INDIANHUME) Is Weighed Down By Its Debt Load

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NSEI:INDIANHUME
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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.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. As with many other companies The Indian Hume Pipe Company Limited (NSE:INDIANHUME) makes use of 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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

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What Is Indian Hume Pipe's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Indian Hume Pipe had ₹6.00b of debt in September 2020, down from ₹7.04b, one year before. However, it does have ₹377.1m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₹5.62b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:INDIANHUME Debt to Equity History March 25th 2021

How Healthy Is Indian Hume Pipe's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Indian Hume Pipe had liabilities of ₹12.7b due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₹1.26b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of ₹377.1m and ₹5.22b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₹8.35b.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of ₹8.61b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Indian Hume Pipe's use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

While Indian Hume Pipe's debt to EBITDA ratio (4.3) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 1.7, suggesting high leverage. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. Even worse, Indian Hume Pipe saw its EBIT tank 37% over the last 12 months. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Indian Hume Pipe will need earnings to service that debt. 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. In the last three years, Indian Hume Pipe created free cash flow amounting to 4.5% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.

Our View

On the face of it, Indian Hume Pipe's interest cover left us tentative about the stock, and its EBIT growth rate was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. And furthermore, its net debt to EBITDA also fails to instill confidence. Taking into account all the aforementioned factors, it looks like Indian Hume Pipe has too much debt. That sort of riskiness is ok for some, but it certainly doesn't float our boat. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Be aware that Indian Hume Pipe is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those shouldn't be ignored...

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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