Alamo Group (NYSE:ALG) Could Easily Take On More Debt

By
Simply Wall St
Published
August 11, 2021
NYSE:ALG
Source: Shutterstock

Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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. Importantly, Alamo Group Inc. (NYSE:ALG) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Alamo Group

How Much Debt Does Alamo Group Carry?

As you can see below, Alamo Group had US$301.3m of debt at June 2021, down from US$438.6m a year prior. However, it also had US$85.6m in cash, and so its net debt is US$215.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:ALG Debt to Equity History August 11th 2021

How Strong Is Alamo Group's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Alamo Group had liabilities of US$184.6m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$352.3m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$85.6m as well as receivables valued at US$263.2m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$188.1m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Of course, Alamo Group has a market capitalization of US$1.82b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.

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).

Alamo Group's net debt is only 1.4 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 10.7 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Also good is that Alamo Group grew its EBIT at 17% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. 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 Alamo Group's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Alamo Group produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 79% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

The good news is that Alamo Group's demonstrated ability to convert EBIT to free cash flow delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And the good news does not stop there, as its interest cover also supports that impression! Zooming out, Alamo Group seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Alamo Group 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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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.
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