These 4 Measures Indicate That Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys (NSE:IMFA) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 25, 2022
NSEI:IMFA
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 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 Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys Limited (NSE:IMFA) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys

What Is Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of September 2021 Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys had ₹6.56b of debt, an increase on ₹6.06b, over one year. However, it also had ₹2.50b in cash, and so its net debt is ₹4.06b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:IMFA Debt to Equity History February 25th 2022

A Look At Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys' Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys had liabilities of ₹7.07b due within a year, and liabilities of ₹4.49b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had ₹2.50b in cash and ₹1.13b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₹7.93b.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys has a market capitalization of ₹16.8b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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).

Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.54. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 12.2 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Better yet, Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys grew its EBIT by 460% 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 Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys will need earnings to service that debt. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys recorded free cash flow worth 61% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

The good news is that Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its level of total liabilities. Zooming out, Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. 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. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys that you should be aware of before investing here.

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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