Is Kirloskar Oil Engines (NSE:KIRLOSENG) Using Too Much Debt?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 15, 2022
NSEI:KIRLOSENG
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.' 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. Importantly, Kirloskar Oil Engines Limited (NSE:KIRLOSENG) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Kirloskar Oil Engines

How Much Debt Does Kirloskar Oil Engines Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of September 2021 Kirloskar Oil Engines had ₹12.3b of debt, an increase on ₹8.32b, over one year. However, it does have ₹7.31b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₹4.99b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:KIRLOSENG Debt to Equity History March 15th 2022

How Strong Is Kirloskar Oil Engines' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Kirloskar Oil Engines had liabilities of ₹12.5b due within 12 months and liabilities of ₹8.61b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had ₹7.31b in cash and ₹9.25b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling ₹4.55b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit isn't so bad because Kirloskar Oil Engines is worth ₹20.0b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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

While Kirloskar Oil Engines's low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.3 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 4.5 times last year does give us pause. But the interest payments are certainly sufficient to have us thinking about how affordable its debt is. It is well worth noting that Kirloskar Oil Engines's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 33% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier to manage its debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Kirloskar Oil Engines can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Kirloskar Oil Engines 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

Kirloskar Oil Engines's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a real negative on this analysis, although the other factors we considered were considerably better. There's no doubt that its ability to to grow its EBIT is pretty flash. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Kirloskar Oil Engines's use of debt. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we'd suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. 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 example - Kirloskar Oil Engines has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

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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