LSI Industries (NASDAQ:LYTS) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 18, 2022
NasdaqGS:LYTS
Source: Shutterstock

David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' 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 can see that LSI Industries Inc. (NASDAQ:LYTS) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for LSI Industries

What Is LSI Industries's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2021, LSI Industries had US$86.6m of debt, up from none a year ago. Click the image for more detail. And it doesn't have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:LYTS Debt to Equity History March 18th 2022

How Healthy Is LSI Industries' Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, LSI Industries had liabilities of US$67.8m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$96.8m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$914.0k as well as receivables valued at US$70.4m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$93.3m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since LSI Industries has a market capitalization of US$165.7m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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.

LSI Industries has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.5, which signals significant debt, but is still pretty reasonable for most types of business. But its EBIT was about 16.4 times its interest expense, implying the company isn't really paying a high cost to maintain that level of debt. Even were the low cost to prove unsustainable, that is a good sign. Notably, LSI Industries's EBIT launched higher than Elon Musk, gaining a whopping 134% on last year. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine LSI Industries's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, LSI Industries actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

LSI Industries's interest cover suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But truth be told we feel its net debt to EBITDA does undermine this impression a bit. Taking all this data into account, it seems to us that LSI Industries takes a pretty sensible approach to debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For instance, we've identified 3 warning signs for LSI Industries (1 is concerning) you should be aware of.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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