We Think Orange Polska (WSE:OPL) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

By
Simply Wall St
Published
August 11, 2021
WSE:OPL
Source: Shutterstock

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. We note that Orange Polska S.A. (WSE:OPL) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

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 frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Orange Polska

How Much Debt Does Orange Polska Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Orange Polska had debt of zł5.57b at the end of June 2021, a reduction from zł6.43b over a year. However, it also had zł310.0m in cash, and so its net debt is zł5.26b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
WSE:OPL Debt to Equity History August 12th 2021

A Look At Orange Polska's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Orange Polska had liabilities of zł3.93b due within 12 months, and liabilities of zł8.99b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of zł310.0m as well as receivables valued at zł1.88b due within 12 months. So its liabilities total zł10.7b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of zł10.2b, we think shareholders really should watch Orange Polska's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive 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). 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).

Orange Polska's net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 2.1 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 2.5 times last year. It seems that the business incurs large depreciation and amortisation charges, so maybe its debt load is heavier than it would first appear, since EBITDA is arguably a generous measure of earnings. It is well worth noting that Orange Polska's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 39% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier to manage its debt. 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 Orange Polska'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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Orange Polska actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

Both Orange Polska's ability to to convert EBIT to free cash flow and its EBIT growth rate gave us comfort that it can handle its debt. In contrast, our confidence was undermined by its apparent struggle to cover its interest expense with its EBIT. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Orange Polska's use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. Be aware that Orange Polska is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , 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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