Axtel. de (BMV:AXTELCPO) Takes On Some Risk With Its Use Of Debt

September 15, 2021
  •  Updated
December 10, 2021
BMV:AXTEL CPO
Source: Shutterstock

David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the 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. Importantly, Axtel, S.A.B. de C.V. (BMV:AXTELCPO) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. 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 Axtel. de

What Is Axtel. de's Net Debt?

As you can see below, Axtel. de had Mex$12.9b of debt at June 2021, down from Mex$16.3b a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of Mex$1.31b, its net debt is less, at about Mex$11.6b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
BMV:AXTEL CPO Debt to Equity History September 16th 2021

How Healthy Is Axtel. de's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Axtel. de had liabilities of Mex$4.07b falling due within a year, and liabilities of Mex$13.8b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of Mex$1.31b as well as receivables valued at Mex$3.32b due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling Mex$13.3b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of Mex$16.8b. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe 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.

While Axtel. de's debt to EBITDA ratio (3.2) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 0.75, suggesting high leverage. 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. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Investors should also be troubled by the fact that Axtel. de saw its EBIT drop by 17% over the last twelve months. If that's the way things keep going handling the debt load will be like delivering hot coffees on a pogo stick. 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 Axtel. de 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. Over the last three years, Axtel. de actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

On the face of it, Axtel. de's EBIT growth rate left us tentative about the stock, and its interest cover was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Looking at the balance sheet and taking into account all these factors, we do believe that debt is making Axtel. de stock a bit risky. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we'd generally feel more comfortable with less leverage. While Axtel. de didn't make a statutory profit in the last year, its positive EBIT suggests that profitability might not be far away. Click here to see if its earnings are heading in the right direction, over the medium term.

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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