Here's Why Iren (BIT:IRE) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden

By
Simply Wall St
Published
July 24, 2021
BIT:IRE
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.' 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 Iren SpA (BIT:IRE) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. 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. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Iren

What Is Iren's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at March 2021 Iren had debt of €4.06b, up from €3.66b in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of €981.5m, its net debt is less, at about €3.08b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
BIT:IRE Debt to Equity History July 24th 2021

How Healthy Is Iren's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Iren had liabilities of €1.86b due within a year, and liabilities of €5.03b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of €981.5m and €1.34b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling €4.56b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's €3.28b market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive 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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Iren's net debt is 3.5 times its EBITDA, which is a significant but still reasonable amount of leverage. However, its interest coverage of 15.8 is very high, suggesting that the interest expense on the debt is currently quite low. Iren grew its EBIT by 4.7% in the last year. Whilst that hardly knocks our socks off it is a positive when it comes to debt. 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 Iren'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. In the last three years, Iren's free cash flow amounted to 47% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

Neither Iren's ability to handle its total liabilities nor its net debt to EBITDA gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But the good news is it seems to be able to cover its interest expense with its EBIT with ease. We should also note that Integrated Utilities industry companies like Iren commonly do use debt without problems. Taking the abovementioned factors together we do think Iren's debt poses some risks to the business. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. 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. Be aware that Iren is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about...

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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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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