Is Nexi (BIT:NEXI) A Risky Investment?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 18, 2022
BIT:NEXI
Source: Shutterstock

Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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 Nexi S.p.A. (BIT:NEXI) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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 examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Nexi

What Is Nexi's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2021, Nexi had €9.91b of debt, up from €3.83b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have €1.55b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about €8.37b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
BIT:NEXI Debt to Equity History March 18th 2022

How Healthy Is Nexi's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Nexi had liabilities of €216.7m due within 12 months and liabilities of €11.8b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of €1.55b and €3.42b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total €7.07b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit isn't so bad because Nexi is worth a massive €13.9b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

With a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 10.8, it's fair to say Nexi does have a significant amount of debt. However, its interest coverage of 3.1 is reasonably strong, which is a good sign. The silver lining is that Nexi grew its EBIT by 106% last year, which nourishing like the idealism of youth. If that earnings trend continues it will make its debt load much more manageable in the future. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Nexi'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 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. In the last three years, Nexi's free cash flow amounted to 23% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

Nexi's net debt to EBITDA and interest cover definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But the good news is it seems to be able to grow its EBIT with ease. We think that Nexi's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. 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. For instance, we've identified 5 warning signs for Nexi (2 make us uncomfortable) you should be aware of.

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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