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These 4 Measures Indicate That Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial (ATH:PLAT) Is Using Debt In A Risky Way

Simply Wall St

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. We note that Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial S.A. (ATH:PLAT) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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.

See our latest analysis for Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial

What Is Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial's Debt?

As you can see below, Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial had €90.4m of debt at June 2019, down from €100.8m a year prior. On the flip side, it has €16.1m in cash leading to net debt of about €74.3m.

ATSE:PLAT Historical Debt, November 15th 2019

How Healthy Is Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial had liabilities of €140.3m due within a year, and liabilities of €51.6m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had €16.1m in cash and €74.7m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €101.0m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of €88.3m, we think shareholders really should watch Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial's debt is 3.0 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 2.9 times over. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. Even worse, Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial saw its EBIT tank 29% 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 ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial 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 always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

On the face of it, Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow left us tentative about the stock, and its EBIT growth rate was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. And furthermore, its interest cover also fails to instill confidence. After considering the datapoints discussed, we think Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial has too much debt. That sort of riskiness is ok for some, but it certainly doesn't float our boat. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Thrace Plastics Holding and Commercial, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.

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.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.