The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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 Bredband2 i Skandinavien AB (publ) (STO:BRE2) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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.
How Much Debt Does Bredband2 i Skandinavien Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2020 Bredband2 i Skandinavien had debt of kr150.5m, up from none in one year. However, it does have kr119.3m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about kr31.2m.
How Healthy Is Bredband2 i Skandinavien's Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Bredband2 i Skandinavien had liabilities of kr504.5m falling due within a year, and liabilities of kr134.6m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had kr119.3m in cash and kr102.1m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling kr417.7m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Bredband2 i Skandinavien has a market capitalization of kr2.09b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk. But either way, Bredband2 i Skandinavien has virtually no net debt, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Bredband2 i Skandinavien's net debt is only 0.39 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 82.1 times over. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. But the bad news is that Bredband2 i Skandinavien has seen its EBIT plunge 16% in the last twelve months. We think hat kind of performance, if repeated frequently, could well lead to difficulties for the stock. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Bredband2 i Skandinavien'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Bredband2 i Skandinavien actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.
The good news is that Bredband2 i Skandinavien's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But we must concede we find its EBIT growth rate has the opposite effect. All these things considered, it appears that Bredband2 i Skandinavien can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. 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. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Bredband2 i Skandinavien (including 1 which is concerning) .
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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