Is Welspun (NSE:WELCORP) A Risky Investment?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 30, 2021
NSEI:WELCORP
Source: Shutterstock

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. Importantly, Welspun Corp Limited (NSE:WELCORP) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. 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 Welspun

How Much Debt Does Welspun Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at September 2021 Welspun had debt of ₹12.3b, up from ₹3.08b in one year. But it also has ₹22.5b in cash to offset that, meaning it has ₹10.2b net cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:WELCORP Debt to Equity History December 1st 2021

How Strong Is Welspun's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Welspun had liabilities of ₹20.8b due within a year, and liabilities of ₹8.11b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of ₹22.5b as well as receivables valued at ₹5.02b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₹1.37b.

Since publicly traded Welspun shares are worth a total of ₹43.2b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. While it does have liabilities worth noting, Welspun also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.

The modesty of its debt load may become crucial for Welspun if management cannot prevent a repeat of the 45% cut to EBIT over the last year. When a company sees its earnings tank, it can sometimes find its relationships with its lenders turn sour. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Welspun's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. Welspun may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. Over the most recent three years, Welspun recorded free cash flow worth 50% 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.

Summing up

While it is always sensible to look at a company's total liabilities, it is very reassuring that Welspun has ₹10.2b in net cash. So we don't have any problem with Welspun's use of 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. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Welspun (including 1 which is a bit concerning) .

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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