Stock Analysis

Does S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz (BVB:TGN) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

BVB:TGN
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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.' 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. Importantly, S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz S.A. (BVB:TGN) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz

What Is S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at September 2020 S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz had debt of RON1.24b, up from RON473.1m in one year. However, it does have RON335.2m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about RON902.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
BVB:TGN Debt to Equity History January 20th 2021

A Look At S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz had liabilities of RON594.5m due within 12 months, and liabilities of RON2.16b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of RON335.2m and RON295.5m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by RON2.13b.

S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz has a market capitalization of RON3.56b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

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.

S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 1.8 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its strong interest cover of 1k times, makes us even more comfortable. Shareholders should be aware that S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz's EBIT was down 23% last year. If that earnings trend continues then paying off its debt will be about as easy as herding cats on to a roller coaster. 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 S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz'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.

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. During the last three years, S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz burned a lot of cash. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

To be frank both S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and its track record of (not) growing its EBIT make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least it's pretty decent at covering its interest expense with its EBIT; that's encouraging. Overall, we think it's fair to say that S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If everything goes well that may pay off but the downside of this debt is a greater risk of permanent losses. 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. Like risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for S.N.T.G.N. Transgaz (of which 2 are potentially serious!) 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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