Sonae SGPS (ELI:SON) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

By
Simply Wall St
Published
October 27, 2021
ENXTLS:SON
Source: Shutterstock

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.' 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. As with many other companies Sonae, SGPS, S.A. (ELI:SON) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Sonae SGPS

What Is Sonae SGPS's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2021, Sonae SGPS had €2.07b of debt, up from €1.88b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have €551.2m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about €1.52b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ENXTLS:SON Debt to Equity History October 28th 2021

A Look At Sonae SGPS' Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Sonae SGPS had liabilities of €2.01b falling due within a year, and liabilities of €3.50b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had €551.2m in cash and €279.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €4.68b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit casts a shadow over the €1.76b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. At the end of the day, Sonae SGPS would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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

Sonae SGPS's debt is 3.1 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 3.1 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. The good news is that Sonae SGPS grew its EBIT a smooth 81% over the last twelve months. Like the milk of human kindness that sort of growth increases resilience, making the company more capable of managing debt. 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 Sonae SGPS'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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Sonae SGPS actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

While Sonae SGPS's level of total liabilities has us nervous. To wit both its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and EBIT growth rate were encouraging signs. We think that Sonae SGPS's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. 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. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Sonae SGPS that you should be aware of.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

Discounted cash flow calculation for every stock

Simply Wall St does a detailed discounted cash flow calculation every 6 hours for every stock on the market, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any company just search here. It’s FREE.

Make Confident Investment Decisions

Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.