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 CSC Holdings Limited (SGX:C06) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
What Is CSC Holdings’s Net Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that CSC Holdings had S$68.5m of debt in March 2020, down from S$82.0m, one year before. On the flip side, it has S$22.2m in cash leading to net debt of about S$46.3m.
How Healthy Is CSC Holdings’s Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, CSC Holdings had liabilities of S$194.9m due within 12 months, and liabilities of S$18.0m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of S$22.2m and S$126.9m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by S$63.9m.
When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company’s S$45.9m market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.
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 CSC Holdings’s low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.3 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 3.4 times last year does give us pause. So we’d recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. Notably, CSC Holdings made a loss at the EBIT level, last year, but improved that to positive EBIT of S$12m in the last twelve months. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can’t view debt in total isolation; since CSC Holdings will need earnings to service that debt. So when considering debt, it’s definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.
Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it is important to check how much of its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) converts to actual free cash flow. Over the last year, CSC Holdings actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There’s nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders’ good graces.
Neither CSC Holdings’s ability to handle its total liabilities nor its interest cover gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But the good news is it seems to be able to convert EBIT to free cash flow with ease. When we consider all the factors discussed, it seems to us that CSC Holdings is taking some risks with its use of debt. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. For example, we’ve discovered 3 warning signs for CSC Holdings that you should be aware of before investing here.
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.
If you decide to trade CSC Holdings, use the lowest-cost* platform that is rated #1 Overall by Barron’s, Interactive Brokers. Trade stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds on 135 markets, all from a single integrated account.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
*Interactive Brokers Rated Lowest Cost Broker by StockBrokers.com Annual Online Review 2020
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org.