Stock Analysis

Here's Why Constellium (NYSE:CSTM) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden

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NYSE:CSTM
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 can see that Constellium SE (NYSE:CSTM) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest 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.

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What Is Constellium's Debt?

As you can see below, Constellium had €2.12b of debt, at March 2021, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it also had €342.0m in cash, and so its net debt is €1.78b.

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NYSE:CSTM Debt to Equity History July 10th 2021

A Look At Constellium's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Constellium had liabilities of €1.30b due within a year, and liabilities of €3.01b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €342.0m as well as receivables valued at €509.0m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling €3.45b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the €2.22b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. 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.

While we wouldn't worry about Constellium's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.5, we think its super-low interest cover of 2.4 times is a sign of high leverage. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Looking on the bright side, Constellium boosted its EBIT by a silky 80% in the last year. Like the milk of human kindness that sort of growth increases resilience, making the company more capable of managing debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Constellium 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. In the last three years, Constellium's free cash flow amounted to 34% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

Mulling over Constellium's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But at least it's pretty decent at growing its EBIT; that's encouraging. Looking at the bigger picture, it seems clear to us that Constellium's use of debt is creating risks for the company. If everything goes well that may pay off but the downside of this debt is a greater risk of permanent losses. 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. To that end, you should learn about the 2 warning signs we've spotted with Constellium (including 1 which makes us a bit uncomfortable) .

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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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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