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.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. Importantly, Jason Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:JASN) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
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 common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is Jason Industries's Net Debt?
As you can see below, Jason Industries had US$392.9m of debt, at March 2019, which is about the same the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it does have US$46.1m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$346.9m.
How Strong Is Jason Industries's Balance Sheet?
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Jason Industries had liabilities of US$99.0m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$455.4m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$46.1m as well as receivables valued at US$75.0m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$433.4m.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$16.4m 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, Jason Industries would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Jason Industries shareholders face the double whammy of a high net debt to EBITDA ratio (6.1), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 0.50 times the interest expense. The debt burden here is substantial. Even worse, Jason Industries saw its EBIT tank 38% 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. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Jason Industries will need earnings to service that debt. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Jason Industries recorded free cash flow of 45% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.
On the face of it, Jason Industries'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. Taking into account all the aforementioned factors, it looks like Jason Industries has too much debt. That sort of riskiness is ok for some, but it certainly doesn't float our boat. Given the risks around Jason Industries's use of debt, the sensible thing to do is to check if insiders have been unloading the stock.
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.
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