Stock Analysis

Does MedFirst Healthcare Services (GTSM:4175) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

TPEX:4175
Source: Shutterstock

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 can see that MedFirst Healthcare Services, Inc. (GTSM:4175) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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.

View our latest analysis for MedFirst Healthcare Services

What Is MedFirst Healthcare Services's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2020 MedFirst Healthcare Services had debt of NT$1.47b, up from NT$1.15b in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of NT$445.2m, its net debt is less, at about NT$1.02b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
GTSM:4175 Debt to Equity History March 30th 2021

How Healthy Is MedFirst Healthcare Services' Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that MedFirst Healthcare Services had liabilities of NT$2.62b due within a year, and liabilities of NT$1.77b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of NT$445.2m as well as receivables valued at NT$201.8m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling NT$3.74b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the NT$2.25b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. At the end of the day, MedFirst Healthcare Services would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). 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).

MedFirst Healthcare Services has net debt worth 1.5 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 6.8 times the interest expense. In large part that's due to the company's significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. On the other hand, MedFirst Healthcare Services's EBIT dived 12%, over the last year. If that rate of decline in earnings continues, the company could find itself in a tight spot. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since MedFirst Healthcare Services 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, 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. In the last three years, MedFirst Healthcare Services created free cash flow amounting to 7.0% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.

Our View

Mulling over MedFirst Healthcare Services's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But at least it's pretty decent at covering its interest expense with its EBIT; that's encouraging. We're quite clear that we consider MedFirst Healthcare Services to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 5 warning signs for MedFirst Healthcare Services you should know about.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

When trading MedFirst Healthcare Services or any other investment, use the platform considered by many to be the Professional's Gateway to the Worlds Market, Interactive Brokers. You get the lowest-cost* trading on stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds worldwide from a single integrated account. Promoted


Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether MedFirst Healthcare Services is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

View the Free Analysis

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 editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.