Stock Analysis

Motorcar Parts of America (NASDAQ:MPAA) Seems To Be Using A Lot Of Debt

  •  Updated
NasdaqGS:MPAA
Source: Shutterstock

Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. We note that Motorcar Parts of America, Inc. (NASDAQ:MPAA) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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 step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Motorcar Parts of America

How Much Debt Does Motorcar Parts of America Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at March 2022 Motorcar Parts of America had debt of US$171.7m, up from US$104.5m in one year. However, it does have US$25.2m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$146.5m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:MPAA Debt to Equity History July 20th 2022

How Healthy Is Motorcar Parts of America's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Motorcar Parts of America had liabilities of US$426.4m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$274.0m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$25.2m and US$112.9m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$562.3m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit casts a shadow over the US$290.8m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Motorcar Parts of America would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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.

While we wouldn't worry about Motorcar Parts of America's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.0, we think its super-low interest cover of 2.3 times is a sign of high leverage. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Fortunately, Motorcar Parts of America grew its EBIT by 4.4% in the last year, slowly shrinking its debt relative to earnings. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Motorcar Parts of America can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Considering the last three years, Motorcar Parts of America actually recorded a cash outflow, overall. Debt is far more risky for companies with unreliable free cash flow, so shareholders should be hoping that the past expenditure will produce free cash flow in the future.

Our View

On the face of it, Motorcar Parts of America's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. Having said that, its ability to grow its EBIT isn't such a worry. After considering the datapoints discussed, we think Motorcar Parts of America has too much debt. While some investors love that sort of risky play, it's certainly not our cup of tea. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for Motorcar Parts of America you should be aware of, and 1 of them makes us a bit uncomfortable.

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.

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

Find out whether Motorcar Parts of America 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