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 DREAMTECH Co., Ltd. (KRX:192650) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
When Is Debt Dangerous?
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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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 thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does DREAMTECH Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2020 DREAMTECH had debt of ₩131.3b, up from ₩86.8b in one year. However, it also had ₩22.9b in cash, and so its net debt is ₩108.5b.
A Look At DREAMTECH's Liabilities
According to the last reported balance sheet, DREAMTECH had liabilities of ₩276.8b due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₩25.2b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had ₩22.9b in cash and ₩123.4b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total ₩155.8b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
This deficit isn't so bad because DREAMTECH is worth ₩640.6b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.
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.
DREAMTECH's net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 1.7 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 5.6 times last year. In large part that's due to the company's significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. Importantly, DREAMTECH's EBIT fell a jaw-dropping 35% in the last twelve months. If that earnings trend continues then paying off its debt will be about as easy as herding cats on to a roller coaster. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if DREAMTECH can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, DREAMTECH saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.
On the face of it, DREAMTECH's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow left us tentative about the stock, and its EBIT growth rate was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least its net debt to EBITDA is not so bad. Overall, we think it's fair to say that DREAMTECH has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 5 warning signs for DREAMTECH (of which 1 is a bit concerning!) you should know about.
When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.
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DREAMTECH Co., Ltd. designs, develops, produces, and sells modules for smartphone, automotive LED, home appliance, fingerprint, sensor, IT convergence, and medical/ healthcare applications in South Korea and internationally.
Excellent balance sheet and good value.
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