Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies Uzma Berhad (KLSE:UZMA) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
Our analysis indicates that UZMA is potentially overvalued!
What Is Uzma Berhad's Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Uzma Berhad had debt of RM453.9m at the end of June 2022, a reduction from RM514.6m over a year. On the flip side, it has RM89.7m in cash leading to net debt of about RM364.2m.
How Healthy Is Uzma Berhad's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Uzma Berhad had liabilities of RM442.9m due within a year, and liabilities of RM292.5m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of RM89.7m and RM313.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by RM332.8m.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the RM161.9m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. After all, Uzma Berhad would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.
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).
While we wouldn't worry about Uzma Berhad's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.4, we think its super-low interest cover of 1.9 times is a sign of 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. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. Looking on the bright side, Uzma Berhad boosted its EBIT by a silky 69% in the last year. Like a mother's loving embrace of a newborn that sort of growth builds resilience, putting the company in a stronger position to manage its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Uzma Berhad's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Uzma Berhad actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.
While Uzma Berhad's level of total liabilities has us nervous. For example, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and EBIT growth rate give us some confidence in its ability to manage its debt. When we consider all the factors discussed, it seems to us that Uzma Berhad is taking some risks with its use of debt. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Uzma Berhad (1 is a bit unpleasant!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
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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Find out whether Uzma 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.View the Free Analysis
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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.