Stock Analysis

These 4 Measures Indicate That Kronos Worldwide (NYSE:KRO) Is Using Debt Safely

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NYSE:KRO
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The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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 Kronos Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:KRO) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

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What Is Kronos Worldwide's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Kronos Worldwide had debt of US$417.2m at the end of June 2022, a reduction from US$473.2m over a year. However, it also had US$371.2m in cash, and so its net debt is US$46.0m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:KRO Debt to Equity History September 3rd 2022

A Look At Kronos Worldwide's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Kronos Worldwide had liabilities of US$281.5m due within a year, and liabilities of US$778.4m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$371.2m as well as receivables valued at US$404.3m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$284.4m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Since publicly traded Kronos Worldwide shares are worth a total of US$1.47b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse.

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).

Kronos Worldwide has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.16. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 13.4 times over. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Even more impressive was the fact that Kronos Worldwide grew its EBIT by 112% over twelve months. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Kronos Worldwide'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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Kronos Worldwide produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 70% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

The good news is that Kronos Worldwide's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its EBIT growth rate is also very heartening. Considering this range of factors, it seems to us that Kronos Worldwide is quite prudent with its debt, and the risks seem well managed. So the balance sheet looks pretty healthy, to us. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. We've identified 1 warning sign with Kronos Worldwide , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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 Kronos Worldwide 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.

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About NYSE:KRO

Kronos Worldwide

Kronos Worldwide, Inc. produces and markets titanium dioxide pigments (TiO2) in Europe, North America, the Asia Pacific, and internationally.

The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.

Analysis AreaScore (0-6)
Valuation2
Future Growth0
Past Performance4
Financial Health6
Dividends5

Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.

Flawless balance sheet established dividend payer.