We Think Reply (BIT:REY) Can Manage Its Debt With Ease

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 11, 2022
BIT:REY
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies Reply S.p.A. (BIT:REY) makes use of 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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Reply

How Much Debt Does Reply Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2021 Reply had debt of €38.1m, up from €31.9m in one year. But on the other hand it also has €360.6m in cash, leading to a €322.5m net cash position.

debt-equity-history-analysis
BIT:REY Debt to Equity History April 11th 2022

A Look At Reply's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Reply had liabilities of €708.6m falling due within a year, and liabilities of €322.6m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had €360.6m in cash and €535.3m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling €135.2m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Of course, Reply has a market capitalization of €5.52b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Reply boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

Another good sign is that Reply has been able to increase its EBIT by 30% in twelve months, making it easier to pay down debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Reply 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. Reply 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. Happily for any shareholders, Reply actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Summing up

We could understand if investors are concerned about Reply's liabilities, but we can be reassured by the fact it has has net cash of €322.5m. And it impressed us with free cash flow of €170m, being 107% of its EBIT. So is Reply's debt a risk? It doesn't seem so to us. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Reply, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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