We Think Protektor (WSE:PRT) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 29, 2021
WSE:PRT
Source: Shutterstock

David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. Importantly, Protektor S.A. (WSE:PRT) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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.

View our latest analysis for Protektor

What Is Protektor's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of September 2021, Protektor had zł17.1m of debt, up from zł11.4m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. On the flip side, it has zł3.63m in cash leading to net debt of about zł13.5m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
WSE:PRT Debt to Equity History December 29th 2021

How Strong Is Protektor's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Protektor had liabilities of zł41.9m due within a year, and liabilities of zł12.5m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of zł3.63m and zł14.3m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by zł36.5m.

This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of zł50.8m. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

While Protektor's low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.3 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 3.5 times last year does give us pause. So we'd recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. Notably, Protektor's EBIT launched higher than Elon Musk, gaining a whopping 133% on last year. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Protektor will need earnings to service that debt. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, Protektor recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 98% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

Happily, Protektor's impressive conversion of EBIT to free cash flow implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its interest cover. All these things considered, it appears that Protektor can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. 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 4 warning signs for Protektor (1 is a bit unpleasant!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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