We Think Total Transport Systems (NSE:TOTAL) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

Published
July 24, 2022
NSEI:TOTAL
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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.' 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, Total Transport Systems Limited (NSE:TOTAL) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

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How Much Debt Does Total Transport Systems Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at March 2022 Total Transport Systems had debt of ₹264.6m, up from ₹232.9m in one year. On the flip side, it has ₹93.4m in cash leading to net debt of about ₹171.2m.

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NSEI:TOTAL Debt to Equity History July 24th 2022

How Healthy Is Total Transport Systems' Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Total Transport Systems had liabilities of ₹704.3m due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₹77.3m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of ₹93.4m and ₹1.08b worth of receivables due within a year. So it can boast ₹392.6m more liquid assets than total liabilities.

This surplus strongly suggests that Total Transport Systems has a rock-solid balance sheet (and the debt is of no concern whatsoever). Having regard to this fact, we think its balance sheet is as strong as an ox.

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).

Total Transport Systems has net debt of just 1.0 times EBITDA, indicating that it is certainly not a reckless borrower. And it boasts interest cover of 7.7 times, which is more than adequate. Better yet, Total Transport Systems grew its EBIT by 628% last year, which is an impressive improvement. That boost will make it even easier to pay down debt going forward. 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 Total Transport Systems 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.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Total Transport Systems reported free cash flow worth 9.7% of its EBIT, which is really quite low. That limp level of cash conversion undermines its ability to manage and pay down debt.

Our View

Total Transport Systems's EBIT growth rate suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But we must concede we find its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow has the opposite effect. Zooming out, Total Transport Systems seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. While debt does bring risk, when used wisely it can also bring a higher return on equity. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for Total Transport Systems you should be aware of, and 1 of them is significant.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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