Here's Why Precomp Solutions (STO:PCOM B) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
May 25, 2021
OM:PCOM B
Source: Shutterstock

Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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. Importantly, Precomp Solutions AB (publ) (STO:PCOM B) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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.

See our latest analysis for Precomp Solutions

What Is Precomp Solutions's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Precomp Solutions had kr13.2m of debt in March 2021, down from kr41.7m, one year before. However, it also had kr1.30m in cash, and so its net debt is kr11.9m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
OM:PCOM B Debt to Equity History May 26th 2021

How Strong Is Precomp Solutions' Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Precomp Solutions had liabilities of kr44.8m due within a year, and liabilities of kr16.5m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had kr1.30m in cash and kr17.1m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by kr42.9m.

This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of kr70.7m. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe 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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

While Precomp Solutions has a quite reasonable net debt to EBITDA multiple of 1.8, its interest cover seems weak, at 0.62. In large part that's it has so much depreciation and amortisation. These charges may be non-cash, so they could be excluded when it comes to paying down debt. But the accounting charges are there for a reason -- some assets are seen to be losing value. Either way there's no doubt the stock is using meaningful leverage. Notably, Precomp Solutions made a loss at the EBIT level, last year, but improved that to positive EBIT of kr1.5m in the last twelve months. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is Precomp Solutions's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. Over the last year, Precomp Solutions actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

Based on what we've seen Precomp Solutions is not finding it easy, given its interest cover, but the other factors we considered give us cause to be optimistic. There's no doubt that its ability to to convert EBIT to free cash flow is pretty flash. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Precomp Solutions'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. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. 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 4 warning signs for Precomp Solutions (of which 3 are concerning!) 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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