Is BASF India (NSE:BASF) A Risky Investment?

Simply Wall St
February 25, 2022
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Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies BASF India Limited (NSE:BASF) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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 frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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.

See our latest analysis for BASF India

What Is BASF India's Net Debt?

As you can see below, BASF India had ₹2.19b of debt at September 2021, down from ₹8.36b a year prior. However, it also had ₹494.0m in cash, and so its net debt is ₹1.70b.

NSEI:BASF Debt to Equity History February 25th 2022

How Healthy Is BASF India's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, BASF India had liabilities of ₹33.6b due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₹1.29b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had ₹494.0m in cash and ₹24.3b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total ₹10.2b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Of course, BASF India has a market capitalization of ₹115.4b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward. Carrying virtually no net debt, BASF India has a very light debt load indeed.

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.

BASF India has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.18. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 347 times the size. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. Better yet, BASF India grew its EBIT by 112% last year, which is an impressive improvement. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. 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 BASF India 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, BASF India recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 82% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

The good news is that BASF India's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. We think BASF India is no more beholden to its lenders, than the birds are to birdwatchers. For investing nerds like us its balance sheet is almost charming. 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 be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with BASF India .

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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