Stock Analysis

We Think AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group (AMS:AMG) Is Taking Some Risk With Its Debt

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ENXTAM:AMG
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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 AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group N.V. (AMS:AMG) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group

What Is AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group's Net Debt?

As you can see below, AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group had US$718.3m of debt, at December 2021, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$337.9m, its net debt is less, at about US$380.4m.

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ENXTAM:AMG Debt to Equity History April 23rd 2022

How Healthy Is AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group had liabilities of US$466.4m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$939.1m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$337.9m in cash and US$151.3m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$916.3m.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$1.30b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group's use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

While we wouldn't worry about AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.8, we think its super-low interest cover of 2.4 times is a sign of high leverage. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. One redeeming factor for AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group is that it turned last year's EBIT loss into a gain of US$57m, over the last twelve months. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group'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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. Over the last year, AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group 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.

Our View

Mulling over AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group's attempt at converting EBIT to free cash flow, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But at least its EBIT growth rate is not so bad. We're quite clear that we consider AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. So we're almost as wary of this stock as a hungry kitten is about falling into its owner's fish pond: once bitten, twice shy, as they say. 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. For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group that you should be aware of before investing here.

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.

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Find out whether AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group 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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