Stock Analysis

Does Jardine Cycle & Carriage (SGX:C07) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

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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.' 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 Jardine Cycle & Carriage Limited (SGX:C07) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Jardine Cycle & Carriage

What Is Jardine Cycle & Carriage's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Jardine Cycle & Carriage had US$5.95b of debt in December 2022, down from US$6.56b, one year before. However, it also had US$3.66b in cash, and so its net debt is US$2.28b.

SGX:C07 Debt to Equity History March 16th 2023

How Strong Is Jardine Cycle & Carriage's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Jardine Cycle & Carriage had liabilities of US$8.57b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$4.28b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$3.66b and US$5.56b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$3.63b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Jardine Cycle & Carriage has a market capitalization of US$8.19b, 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.

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).

Jardine Cycle & Carriage has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.64. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 46.6 times over. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. In addition to that, we're happy to report that Jardine Cycle & Carriage has boosted its EBIT by 60%, thus reducing the spectre of future debt repayments. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Jardine Cycle & Carriage can strengthen its balance sheet over time. 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 clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Jardine Cycle & Carriage actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

Happily, Jardine Cycle & Carriage's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But truth be told we feel its level of total liabilities does undermine this impression a bit. Zooming out, Jardine Cycle & Carriage seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. While debt does bring risk, when used wisely it can also bring a higher return on equity. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. Case in point: We've spotted 1 warning sign for Jardine Cycle & Carriage you should be aware of.

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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About SGX:C07

Jardine Cycle & Carriage

Jardine Cycle & Carriage Limited, an investment holding company, engages in the automotive, financial services, heavy equipment, mining, construction and energy, agribusiness, infrastructure and logistics, information technology, and property businesses in Indonesia and internationally.

Flawless balance sheet second-rate dividend payer.