Does Parag Milk Foods (NSE:PARAGMILK) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

Simply Wall St
November 26, 2021
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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 note that Parag Milk Foods Limited (NSE:PARAGMILK) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Parag Milk Foods

What Is Parag Milk Foods's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Parag Milk Foods had debt of ₹3.74b at the end of September 2021, a reduction from ₹3.91b over a year. However, it does have ₹957.7m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₹2.78b.

NSEI:PARAGMILK Debt to Equity History November 27th 2021

How Strong Is Parag Milk Foods' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Parag Milk Foods had liabilities of ₹5.01b due within 12 months and liabilities of ₹2.17b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had ₹957.7m in cash and ₹4.30b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling ₹1.93b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Of course, Parag Milk Foods has a market capitalization of ₹12.1b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.

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). 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).

Even though Parag Milk Foods's debt is only 1.8, its interest cover is really very low at 2.3. This does have us wondering if the company pays high interest because it is considered risky. Either way there's no doubt the stock is using meaningful leverage. Unfortunately, Parag Milk Foods's EBIT flopped 12% over the last four quarters. If that sort of decline is not arrested, then the managing its debt will be harder than selling broccoli flavoured ice-cream for a premium. 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 Parag Milk Foods 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.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Parag Milk Foods saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. 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

We'd go so far as to say Parag Milk Foods's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was disappointing. But at least its level of total liabilities is not so bad. Looking at the bigger picture, it seems clear to us that Parag Milk Foods's use of debt is creating risks for the company. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Parag Milk Foods you should know about.

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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