Stock Analysis

Rostelecom (MCX:RTKM) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

MISX:RTKM
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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 seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. We can see that Public Joint Stock Company Rostelecom (MCX:RTKM) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Rostelecom

What Is Rostelecom's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Rostelecom had debt of ₽421.5b at the end of September 2021, a reduction from ₽443.3b over a year. However, because it has a cash reserve of ₽41.5b, its net debt is less, at about ₽380.0b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
MISX:RTKM Debt to Equity History November 23rd 2021

How Strong Is Rostelecom's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Rostelecom had liabilities of ₽229.7b due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₽594.2b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had ₽41.5b in cash and ₽83.4b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling ₽699.1b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the ₽299.9b company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. After all, Rostelecom would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its 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).

Even though Rostelecom's debt is only 2.2, its interest cover is really very low at 2.3. In large part that's it has so much depreciation and amortisation. While companies often boast that these charges are non-cash, most such businesses will therefore require ongoing investment (that is not expensed.) In any case, it's safe to say the company has meaningful debt. Rostelecom grew its EBIT by 4.7% in the last year. That's far from incredible but it is a good thing, when it comes to paying off 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 Rostelecom'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 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, Rostelecom reported free cash flow worth 11% of its EBIT, which is really quite low. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.

Our View

Mulling over Rostelecom's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But at least its EBIT growth rate is not so bad. Overall, it seems to us that Rostelecom's balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Rostelecom (including 1 which is potentially serious) .

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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Rostelecom is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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.

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About MISX:RTKM

Rostelecom

Public Joint Stock Company Rostelecom provides digital services and solutions in Russia.

Undervalued with moderate growth potential.

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