Stock Analysis

Here's Why Servotech Power Systems (NSE:SERVOTECH) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

NSEI:SERVOTECH
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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.' 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 can see that Servotech Power Systems Limited (NSE:SERVOTECH) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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.

See our latest analysis for Servotech Power Systems

What Is Servotech Power Systems's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of September 2022 Servotech Power Systems had ₹261.4m of debt, an increase on ₹192.1m, over one year. On the flip side, it has ₹30.2m in cash leading to net debt of about ₹231.2m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:SERVOTECH Debt to Equity History March 29th 2023

How Strong Is Servotech Power Systems' Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Servotech Power Systems had liabilities of ₹451.8m falling due within a year, and liabilities of ₹86.0m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of ₹30.2m as well as receivables valued at ₹334.1m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₹173.5m.

Since publicly traded Servotech Power Systems shares are worth a total of ₹3.68b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Servotech Power Systems has net debt worth 1.9 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 5.2 times the interest expense. While these numbers do not alarm us, it's worth noting that the cost of the company's debt is having a real impact. If Servotech Power Systems can keep growing EBIT at last year's rate of 18% over the last year, then it will find its debt load easier to manage. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Servotech Power Systems will need earnings to service that debt. 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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, Servotech Power Systems recorded negative free cash flow, in total. Debt is usually more expensive, and almost always more risky in the hands of a company with negative free cash flow. Shareholders ought to hope for an improvement.

Our View

Servotech Power Systems'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 Servotech Power Systems'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. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. To that end, you should learn about the 4 warning signs we've spotted with Servotech Power Systems (including 1 which 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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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.