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. We note that AAK AB (publ.) (STO:AAK) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
How Much Debt Does AAK AB (publ.) Carry?
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that AAK AB (publ.) had kr3.94b in debt in September 2021; about the same as the year before. However, it does have kr999.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about kr2.94b.
How Strong Is AAK AB (publ.)'s Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, AAK AB (publ.) had liabilities of kr10.9b due within 12 months, and liabilities of kr3.11b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had kr999.0m in cash and kr7.12b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total kr5.93b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Of course, AAK AB (publ.) has a market capitalization of kr51.6b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.
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).
AAK AB (publ.)'s net debt is only 1.0 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 23.5 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. But the other side of the story is that AAK AB (publ.) saw its EBIT decline by 2.7% over the last year. That sort of decline, if sustained, will obviously make debt harder to handle. 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 AAK AB (publ.)'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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. In the last three years, AAK AB (publ.)'s free cash flow amounted to 35% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.
On our analysis AAK AB (publ.)'s interest cover should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For instance it seems like it has to struggle a bit to convert EBIT to free cash flow. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that AAK AB (publ.) is managing its debt quite well. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. We'd be motivated to research the stock further if we found out that AAK AB (publ.) insiders have bought shares recently. If you would too, then you're in luck, since today we're sharing our list of reported insider transactions for free.
Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.
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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