Is Nolato (STO:NOLA B) Using Too Much Debt?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 21, 2022
OM:NOLA B
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies Nolato AB (publ) (STO:NOLA B) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Nolato

What Is Nolato's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Nolato had kr1.47b of debt in September 2021, down from kr1.97b, one year before. However, it also had kr1.40b in cash, and so its net debt is kr72.0m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
OM:NOLA B Debt to Equity History January 21st 2022

How Strong Is Nolato's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Nolato had liabilities of kr3.00b due within 12 months, and liabilities of kr2.26b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of kr1.40b as well as receivables valued at kr1.42b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by kr2.44b.

Given Nolato has a market capitalization of kr26.0b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. Carrying virtually no net debt, Nolato has a very light debt load indeed.

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).

With debt at a measly 0.042 times EBITDA and EBIT covering interest a whopping 148 times, it's clear that Nolato is not a desperate borrower. So relative to past earnings, the debt load seems trivial. Another good sign is that Nolato has been able to increase its EBIT by 30% in twelve months, making it easier to pay down debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Nolato can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Nolato recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 88% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

The good news is that Nolato's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. We think Nolato is no more beholden to its lenders, than the birds are to birdwatchers. For investing nerds like us its balance sheet is almost charming. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Nolato you should know about.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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