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.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We note that Stillfront Group AB (publ) (STO:SF) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
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. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Stillfront Group Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2021 Stillfront Group had debt of kr4.50b, up from kr1.60b in one year. However, it does have kr850.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about kr3.65b.
How Healthy Is Stillfront Group's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Stillfront Group had liabilities of kr1.66b due within a year, and liabilities of kr6.82b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of kr850.0m as well as receivables valued at kr674.0m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by kr6.95b.
Stillfront Group has a market capitalization of kr16.9b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.
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.
Stillfront Group's debt is 2.6 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 5.8 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. It is well worth noting that Stillfront Group's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 38% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier to manage its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Stillfront Group'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 always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Stillfront Group recorded free cash flow worth 62% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.
The good news is that Stillfront Group's demonstrated ability to grow its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But truth be told we feel its net debt to EBITDA does undermine this impression a bit. All these things considered, it appears that Stillfront Group can comfortably handle its current debt levels. On the plus side, this leverage can boost shareholder returns, but the potential downside is more risk of loss, so it's worth monitoring the balance sheet. 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. Be aware that Stillfront Group is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about...
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.
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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