Here's Why Entercom Communications (NYSE:ETM) Is Weighed Down By Its Debt Load

By
Simply Wall St
Published
October 15, 2020
NYSE:AUD

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. Importantly, Entercom Communications Corp. (NYSE:ETM) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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.

View our latest analysis for Entercom Communications

What Is Entercom Communications's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2020 Entercom Communications had US$1.83b of debt, an increase on US$1.70b, over one year. On the flip side, it has US$208.2m in cash leading to net debt of about US$1.62b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:ETM Debt to Equity History October 15th 2020

How Strong Is Entercom Communications's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Entercom Communications had liabilities of US$159.7m due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.66b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$208.2m and US$199.1m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.41b.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$196.0m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. At the end of the day, Entercom Communications would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Entercom Communications shareholders face the double whammy of a high net debt to EBITDA ratio (8.3), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 1.6 times the interest expense. The debt burden here is substantial. Even worse, Entercom Communications saw its EBIT tank 42% over the last 12 months. If earnings keep going like that over the long term, it has a snowball's chance in hell of paying off that debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Entercom Communications 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. In the last three years, Entercom Communications's free cash flow amounted to 33% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

On the face of it, Entercom Communications's EBIT growth rate left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is not so bad. We think the chances that Entercom Communications has too much debt a very significant. To our minds, that means the stock is rather high risk, and probably one to avoid; but to each their own (investing) style. Given the risks around Entercom Communications's use of debt, the sensible thing to do is to check if insiders have been unloading the stock.

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.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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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