Stock Analysis

Smartpay Holdings (NZSE:SPY) Is Carrying A Fair Bit Of Debt

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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.' 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. As with many other companies Smartpay Holdings Limited (NZSE:SPY) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

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. 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. 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.

See our latest analysis for Smartpay Holdings

How Much Debt Does Smartpay Holdings Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Smartpay Holdings had debt of NZ$18.1m at the end of March 2021, a reduction from NZ$29.7m over a year. On the flip side, it has NZ$9.27m in cash leading to net debt of about NZ$8.83m.

NZSE:SPY Debt to Equity History May 31st 2021

How Healthy Is Smartpay Holdings' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Smartpay Holdings had liabilities of NZ$19.1m due within 12 months and liabilities of NZ$11.2m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of NZ$9.27m as well as receivables valued at NZ$8.78m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling NZ$12.3m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Since publicly traded Smartpay Holdings shares are worth a total of NZ$183.4m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Smartpay Holdings'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.

In the last year Smartpay Holdings wasn't profitable at an EBIT level, but managed to grow its revenue by 20%, to NZ$34m. That rate of growth is a bit slow for our taste, but it takes all types to make a world.

Caveat Emptor

Over the last twelve months Smartpay Holdings produced an earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss. To be specific the EBIT loss came in at NZ$221k. When we look at that and recall the liabilities on its balance sheet, relative to cash, it seems unwise to us for the company to have any debt. Quite frankly we think the balance sheet is far from match-fit, although it could be improved with time. For example, we would not want to see a repeat of last year's loss of NZ$15m. So to be blunt we do think it is risky. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Smartpay Holdings you should be aware of.

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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