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'. 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 Prysmian S.p.A. (BIT:PRY) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is Prysmian's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at September 2019 Prysmian had debt of €3.28b, up from €3.3k in one year. However, it also had €378.0m in cash, and so its net debt is €2.91b.
How Healthy Is Prysmian's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Prysmian had liabilities of €4.22b due within a year, and liabilities of €3.57b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of €378.0m and €2.80b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total €4.61b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of €5.65b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Prysmian's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Prysmian has net debt to EBITDA of 3.6 suggesting it uses a fair bit of leverage to boost returns. On the plus side, its EBIT was 7.3 times its interest expense, and its net debt to EBITDA, was quite high, at 3.6. It is well worth noting that Prysmian's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 40% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier to manage its debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example, we've discovered 4 warning signs for Prysmian (of which 1 is major) which any shareholder or potential investor should be aware of.
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. In the last three years, Prysmian's free cash flow amounted to 39% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.
On our analysis Prysmian's EBIT growth rate should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For instance it seems like it has to struggle a bit handle its debt, based on its EBITDA,. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Prysmian's debt levels. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we'd suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Prysmian, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.
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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.
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Prysmian S.p.A., together with its subsidiaries, produces, distributes, and sells cables and systems, and related accessories for the energy and telecommunications industries worldwide.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
|Analysis Area||Score (0-6)|
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Excellent balance sheet with proven track record.