China Everbright Water Limited (SGX:U9E): Time For A Financial Health Check

While small-cap stocks, such as China Everbright Water Limited (SGX:U9E) with its market cap of S$816m, are popular for their explosive growth, investors should also be aware of their balance sheet to judge whether the company can survive a downturn. Assessing first and foremost the financial health is crucial, as mismanagement of capital can lead to bankruptcies, which occur at a higher rate for small-caps. Here are few basic financial health checks you should consider before taking the plunge. Though, this commentary is still very high-level, so I’d encourage you to dig deeper yourself into U9E here.

How does U9E’s operating cash flow stack up against its debt?

U9E’s debt levels surged from HK$6.5b to HK$7.5b over the last 12 months , which accounts for long term debt. With this increase in debt, U9E’s cash and short-term investments stands at HK$2.3b , ready to deploy into the business. Moving onto cash from operations, its small level of operating cash flow means calculating cash-to-debt wouldn’t be too useful, though these low levels of cash means that operational efficiency is worth a look. As the purpose of this article is a high-level overview, I won’t be looking at this today, but you can examine some of U9E’s operating efficiency ratios such as ROA here.

Does U9E’s liquid assets cover its short-term commitments?

At the current liabilities level of HK$4.0b, the company has maintained a safe level of current assets to meet its obligations, with the current ratio last standing at 1.23x. Usually, for Water Utilities companies, this is a suitable ratio since there’s a sufficient cash cushion without leaving too much capital idle or in low-earning investments.

SGX:U9E Historical Debt January 8th 19
SGX:U9E Historical Debt January 8th 19

Is U9E’s debt level acceptable?

U9E is a relatively highly levered company with a debt-to-equity of 88%. This is not unusual for small-caps as debt tends to be a cheaper and faster source of funding for some businesses. We can check to see whether U9E is able to meet its debt obligations by looking at the net interest coverage ratio. A company generating earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) at least three times its net interest payments is considered financially sound. In U9E’s, case, the ratio of 4.49x suggests that interest is appropriately covered, which means that lenders may be inclined to lend more money to the company, as it is seen as safe in terms of payback.

Next Steps:

U9E’s high cash coverage means that, although its debt levels are high, the company is able to utilise its borrowings efficiently in order to generate cash flow. This may mean this is an optimal capital structure for the business, given that it is also meeting its short-term commitment. Keep in mind I haven’t considered other factors such as how U9E has been performing in the past. I suggest you continue to research China Everbright Water to get a better picture of the small-cap by looking at:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for U9E’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for U9E’s outlook.
  2. Historical Performance: What has U9E’s returns been like over the past? Go into more detail in the past track record analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of our analysis for more clarity.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.