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ALROSA (MCX:ALRS) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

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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. 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. Importantly, Public Joint Stock Company ALROSA (MCX:ALRS) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for ALROSA

How Much Debt Does ALROSA Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2019 ALROSA had debt of ₽84.5b, up from ₽63.9b in one year. However, it also had ₽53.8b in cash, and so its net debt is ₽30.7b.

MISX:ALRS Historical Debt, October 26th 2019
MISX:ALRS Historical Debt, October 26th 2019

How Healthy Is ALROSA's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that ALROSA had liabilities of ₽61.9b due within a year, and liabilities of ₽112.5b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of ₽53.8b and ₽19.3b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling ₽101.3b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit isn't so bad because ALROSA is worth ₽505.0b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

ALROSA's net debt is only 0.27 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 14.0 times the size. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. But the bad news is that ALROSA has seen its EBIT plunge 19% in the last twelve months. We think hat kind of performance, if repeated frequently, could well lead to difficulties for the stock. 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 ALROSA 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, ALROSA recorded free cash flow worth 71% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

ALROSA's interest cover was a real positive on this analysis, as was its net debt to EBITDA. But truth be told its EBIT growth rate had us nibbling our nails. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that ALROSA is managing its debt quite well. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. Given ALROSA has a strong balance sheet is profitable and pays a dividend, it would be good to know how fast its dividends are growing, if at all. You can find out instantly 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.

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.