We Think FGV Holdings Berhad (KLSE:FGV) Is Taking Some Risk With Its Debt

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 09, 2020
KLSE:FGV
Source: Shutterstock

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.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. We can see that FGV Holdings Berhad (KLSE:FGV) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth 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 FGV Holdings Berhad

What Is FGV Holdings Berhad's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that FGV Holdings Berhad had debt of RM4.54b at the end of September 2020, a reduction from RM5.04b over a year. However, because it has a cash reserve of RM1.74b, its net debt is less, at about RM2.80b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
KLSE:FGV Debt to Equity History December 9th 2020

How Strong Is FGV Holdings Berhad's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, FGV Holdings Berhad had liabilities of RM4.65b due within 12 months, and liabilities of RM6.78b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of RM1.74b as well as receivables valued at RM1.57b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by RM8.12b.

This deficit casts a shadow over the RM4.63b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, FGV Holdings Berhad would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (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 FGV Holdings Berhad's debt to EBITDA ratio (3.0) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 2.3, 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. Worse, FGV Holdings Berhad's EBIT was down 48% over the last year. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine FGV Holdings Berhad'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, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last two years, FGV Holdings 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

On the face of it, FGV Holdings Berhad's EBIT growth rate left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities 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. We're quite clear that we consider FGV Holdings Berhad to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Like risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for FGV Holdings Berhad (of which 1 is significant!) you should know about.

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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