Stock Analysis

These 4 Measures Indicate That Gamuda Berhad (KLSE:GAMUDA) Is Using Debt Safely

KLSE:GAMUDA
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Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We can see that Gamuda Berhad (KLSE:GAMUDA) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Gamuda Berhad

How Much Debt Does Gamuda Berhad Carry?

As you can see below, Gamuda Berhad had RM4.78b of debt at January 2023, down from RM5.42b a year prior. On the flip side, it has RM4.06b in cash leading to net debt of about RM724.3m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
KLSE:GAMUDA Debt to Equity History May 31st 2023

How Healthy Is Gamuda Berhad's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Gamuda Berhad had liabilities of RM4.78b due within 12 months, and liabilities of RM3.92b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of RM4.06b as well as receivables valued at RM4.87b due within 12 months. So it actually has RM221.8m more liquid assets than total liabilities.

Having regard to Gamuda Berhad's size, it seems that its liquid assets are well balanced with its total liabilities. So it's very unlikely that the RM11.8b company is short on cash, but still worth keeping an eye on the balance sheet.

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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

Gamuda Berhad has net debt of just 1.5 times EBITDA, suggesting it could ramp leverage without breaking a sweat. But the really cool thing is that it actually managed to receive more interest than it paid, over the last year. So there's no doubt this company can take on debt while staying cool as a cucumber. In addition to that, we're happy to report that Gamuda Berhad has boosted its EBIT by 82%, thus reducing the spectre of future debt repayments. 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 Gamuda Berhad 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Gamuda Berhad actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

Happily, Gamuda Berhad's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. We think Gamuda Berhad is no more beholden to its lenders, than the birds are to birdwatchers. For investing nerds like us its balance sheet is almost charming. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Gamuda Berhad 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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Gamuda Berhad is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.