These 4 Measures Indicate That Reliance Industries (NSE:RELIANCE) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

By
Simply Wall St
Published
May 12, 2022
NSEI:RELIANCE
Source: Shutterstock

David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the 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. We can see that Reliance Industries Limited (NSE:RELIANCE) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Reliance Industries

What Is Reliance Industries's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at March 2022 Reliance Industries had debt of ₹2.66t, up from ₹2.52t in one year. However, it does have ₹1.68t in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₹981.1b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:RELIANCE Debt to Equity History May 12th 2022

How Healthy Is Reliance Industries' Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Reliance Industries had liabilities of ₹3.09t due within a year, and liabilities of ₹3.02t falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of ₹1.68t and ₹237.7b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total ₹4.19t more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Reliance Industries has a huge market capitalization of ₹17t, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

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

Looking at its net debt to EBITDA of 0.89 and interest cover of 5.5 times, it seems to us that Reliance Industries is probably using debt in a pretty reasonable way. So we'd recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. Importantly, Reliance Industries grew its EBIT by 51% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Reliance Industries can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Reliance Industries 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

Based on what we've seen Reliance Industries is not finding it easy, given its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow, but the other factors we considered give us cause to be optimistic. In particular, we are dazzled with its EBIT growth rate. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Reliance Industries'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. 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. We've identified 2 warning signs with Reliance Industries , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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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