These 4 Measures Indicate That AAK AB (publ.) (STO:AAK) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 21, 2022
OM:AAK
Source: Shutterstock

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that '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?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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.

View our latest analysis for AAK AB (publ.)

What Is AAK AB (publ.)'s Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2021 AAK AB (publ.) had debt of kr3.96b, up from kr3.66b in one year. However, it does have kr1.00b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about kr2.96b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
OM:AAK Debt to Equity History February 21st 2022

How Healthy Is AAK AB (publ.)'s Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that AAK AB (publ.) had liabilities of kr12.2b due within a year, and liabilities of kr3.18b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had kr1.00b in cash and kr7.98b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling kr6.35b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Since publicly traded AAK AB (publ.) shares are worth a total of kr46.7b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

AAK AB (publ.) has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.97. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 23.5 times over. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. But the other side of the story is that AAK AB (publ.) saw its EBIT decline by 4.8% 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 want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, AAK AB (publ.) recorded free cash flow of 30% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

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 example, its EBIT growth rate makes us a little nervous about its debt. Considering this range of data points, we think AAK AB (publ.) is in a good position to manage its debt levels. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. Of course, we wouldn't say no to the extra confidence that we'd gain if we knew that AAK AB (publ.) insiders have been buying shares: if you're on the same wavelength, you can find out if insiders are buying by clicking this link.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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