Stock Analysis

Servotech Power Systems (NSE:SERVOTECH) Takes On Some Risk With Its Use Of Debt

NSEI:SERVOTECH
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Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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. We can see that Servotech Power Systems Limited (NSE:SERVOTECH) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

View our latest analysis for Servotech Power Systems

What Is Servotech Power Systems's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of September 2020 Servotech Power Systems had ₹228.7m of debt, an increase on ₹212.5m, over one year. However, it also had ₹35.7m in cash, and so its net debt is ₹193.0m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:SERVOTECH Debt to Equity History December 28th 2020

How Strong Is Servotech Power Systems's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Servotech Power Systems had liabilities of ₹352.4m due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₹67.0m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of ₹35.7m and ₹447.2m worth of receivables due within a year. So it actually has ₹63.5m more liquid assets than total liabilities.

This surplus suggests that Servotech Power Systems is using debt in a way that is appears to be both safe and conservative. Given it has easily adequate short term liquidity, we don't think it will have any issues with its lenders.

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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

Servotech Power Systems shareholders face the double whammy of a high net debt to EBITDA ratio (6.3), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 1.1 times the interest expense. The debt burden here is substantial. Worse, Servotech Power Systems's EBIT was down 34% over the last year. 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 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. In the last three years, Servotech Power Systems created free cash flow amounting to 15% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. That limp level of cash conversion undermines its ability to manage and pay down debt.

Our View

To be frank both Servotech Power Systems's interest cover and its track record of (not) growing its EBIT make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its level of total liabilities is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Once we consider all the factors above, together, it seems to us that Servotech Power Systems's debt is making it a bit risky. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we'd generally feel more comfortable with less leverage. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for Servotech Power Systems 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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