These 4 Measures Indicate That Antares Vision (BIT:AV) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 17, 2022
BIT:AV
Source: Shutterstock

The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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. We can see that Antares Vision S.p.A. (BIT:AV) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Antares Vision

How Much Debt Does Antares Vision Carry?

As you can see below, Antares Vision had €134.6m of debt at December 2021, down from €155.5m a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of €118.5m, its net debt is less, at about €16.1m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
BIT:AV Debt to Equity History March 17th 2022

How Strong Is Antares Vision's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Antares Vision had liabilities of €70.6m due within a year, and liabilities of €164.6m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of €118.5m and €72.5m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total €44.2m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Given Antares Vision has a market capitalization of €619.0m, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.

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). 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).

While Antares Vision's low debt to EBITDA ratio of 0.53 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 3.1 times last year does give us pause. So we'd recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. Sadly, Antares Vision's EBIT actually dropped 7.2% in the last year. If earnings continue on that decline then managing that debt will be difficult like delivering hot soup on a unicycle. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Antares Vision can strengthen its balance sheet over time. 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. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Antares Vision recorded free cash flow of 41% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for Antares Vision was the fact that it seems able handle its debt, based on its EBITDA, confidently. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For instance it seems like it has to struggle a bit to cover its interest expense with its EBIT. We would also note that Healthcare Services industry companies like Antares Vision commonly do use debt without problems. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Antares Vision's use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. To that end, you should be aware of the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Antares Vision .

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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