Stock Analysis

We Think Biogened (WSE:BGD) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

WSE:BGD
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Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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, Biogened S.A. (WSE:BGD) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

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How Much Debt Does Biogened Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of December 2022 Biogened had zł19.3m of debt, an increase on zł17.3m, over one year. However, it does have zł3.46m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about zł15.8m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
WSE:BGD Debt to Equity History June 30th 2023

A Look At Biogened's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Biogened had liabilities of zł18.9m due within a year, and liabilities of zł19.8m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of zł3.46m and zł16.3m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total zł18.9m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Biogened has a market capitalization of zł39.3m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

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). 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).

Looking at its net debt to EBITDA of 1.4 and interest cover of 4.9 times, it seems to us that Biogened is probably using debt in a pretty reasonable way. But the interest payments are certainly sufficient to have us thinking about how affordable its debt is. It is well worth noting that Biogened's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 83% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier to manage its debt. 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 Biogened 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Biogened recorded free cash flow of 33% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for Biogened was the fact that it seems able to grow its EBIT confidently. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For example, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow makes us a little nervous about its debt. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Biogened is managing its debt quite well. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example Biogened has 3 warning signs (and 2 which are concerning) we think you should know about.

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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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.