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. We can see that IBI Group Inc. (TSE:IBG) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. 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.
How Much Debt Does IBI Group Carry?
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that IBI Group had CA$111.5m in debt in September 2019; about the same as the year before. However, it also had CA$11.1m in cash, and so its net debt is CA$100.4m.
How Strong Is IBI Group's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that IBI Group had liabilities of CA$89.4m due within a year, and liabilities of CA$191.1m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$11.1m as well as receivables valued at CA$184.8m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling CA$84.6m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since IBI Group has a market capitalization of CA$220.9m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. 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.
IBI Group has net debt worth 2.1 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 3.4 times the interest expense. While these numbers do not alarm us, it's worth noting that the cost of the company's debt is having a real impact. Also relevant is that IBI Group has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 24% in the last year, thus enhancing its ability to pay down debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if IBI Group 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.
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, IBI Group recorded free cash flow of 36% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.
On our analysis IBI Group's EBIT growth rate should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. For example, its interest cover makes us a little nervous about its debt. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about IBI Group's use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. We'd be motivated to research the stock further if we found out that IBI Group insiders have bought shares recently. If you would too, then you're in luck, since today we're sharing our list of reported insider transactions for free.
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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