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These 4 Measures Indicate That Tile Shop Holdings (NASDAQ:TTS) Is Using Debt In A Risky Way

Simply Wall St

Warren Buffett famously said, '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 note that Tile Shop Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:TTS) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

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

Check out our latest analysis for Tile Shop Holdings

How Much Debt Does Tile Shop Holdings Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2019 Tile Shop Holdings had debt of US$63.0m, up from US$30.0m in one year. However, it does have US$4.40m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$58.6m.

NasdaqGS:TTS Historical Debt, August 12th 2019

A Look At Tile Shop Holdings's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Tile Shop Holdings had liabilities of US$75.0m due within a year, and liabilities of US$204.3m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$4.40m in cash and US$8.61m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$266.3m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$122.7m 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 definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Tile Shop Holdings would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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.

While Tile Shop Holdings's low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.5 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 2.6 last year does give us pause. So we'd recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. Importantly, Tile Shop Holdings's EBIT fell a jaw-dropping 48% in the last twelve months. If that decline continues then paying off debt will be harder than selling foie gras at a vegan convention. 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 Tile Shop Holdings 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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Considering the last three years, Tile Shop Holdings actually recorded a cash outflow, overall. Debt is far more risky for companies with unreliable free cash flow, so shareholders should be hoping that the past expenditure will produce free cash flow in the future.

Our View

To be frank both Tile Shop Holdings's EBIT growth rate and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. Having said that, its ability handle its debt, based on its EBITDA, isn't such a worry. We think the chances that Tile Shop Holdings 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 our concerns about Tile Shop Holdings's debt levels, it seems only prudent to check if insiders have been ditching the stock.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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.