Stock Analysis

Does Constellium (NYSE:CSTM) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

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NYSE:CSTM
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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.' 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 note that Constellium SE (NYSE:CSTM) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. 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. 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. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

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What Is Constellium's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Constellium had €2.10b of debt in September 2021, down from €2.24b, one year before. However, it also had €323.0m in cash, and so its net debt is €1.78b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:CSTM Debt to Equity History December 24th 2021

How Healthy Is Constellium's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Constellium had liabilities of €1.67b due within a year, and liabilities of €2.75b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €323.0m as well as receivables valued at €689.0m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling €3.41b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the €2.25b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Constellium 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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Constellium's net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 2.3 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 4.4 times last year. While these numbers do not alarm us, it's worth noting that the cost of the company's debt is having a real impact. Pleasingly, Constellium is growing its EBIT faster than former Australian PM Bob Hawke downs a yard glass, boasting a 320% gain in the last twelve months. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Constellium'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. In the last two years, Constellium's free cash flow amounted to 40% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

We'd go so far as to say Constellium's level of total liabilities was disappointing. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Once we consider all the factors above, together, it seems to us that Constellium's debt is making it a bit risky. Some people like that sort of risk, but we're mindful of the potential pitfalls, so we'd probably prefer it carry less debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example Constellium has 3 warning signs (and 2 which don't sit too well with us) we think you should know about.

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

What are the risks and opportunities for Constellium?

Constellium SE, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the design, manufacture, and sale of specialty rolled and extruded aluminum products for the packaging, aerospace, and automotive end-markets.

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Rewards

  • Trading at 45.8% below our estimate of its fair value

  • Earnings have grown 38.2% per year over the past 5 years

Risks

  • Earnings are forecast to decline by an average of 2.7% per year for the next 3 years

  • Large one-off items impacting financial results

  • Has a high level of debt

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