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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 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 Monro, Inc. (NASDAQ:MNRO) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
When Is Debt Dangerous?
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. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Monro Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Monro had debt of US$160.0m at the end of June 2019, a reduction from US$410.8m over a year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$8.51m, its net debt is less, at about US$151.5m.
How Healthy Is Monro's Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, Monro had liabilities of US$263.8m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$596.1m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$8.51m in cash and US$17.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$834.0m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Monro has a market capitalization of US$2.58b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.
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.
Looking at its net debt to EBITDA of 0.78 and interest cover of 5.0 times, it seems to us that Monro is probably using debt in a pretty reasonable way. So we'd recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. We saw Monro grow its EBIT by 3.6% in the last twelve months. Whilst that hardly knocks our socks off it is a positive when it comes to debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Monro can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Monro generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 81% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
The good news is that Monro's demonstrated ability to convert EBIT to free cash flow delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And its net debt to EBITDA is good too. All these things considered, it appears that Monro can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. Of course, we wouldn't say no to the extra confidence that we'd gain if we knew that Monro insiders have been buying shares: if you're on the same wavelength, you can find out if insiders are buying by clicking this link.
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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