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Is Goodfellow (TSE:GDL) A Risky Investment?

Simply Wall St

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 seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. Importantly, Goodfellow Inc. (TSE:GDL) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Goodfellow

How Much Debt Does Goodfellow Carry?

As you can see below, Goodfellow had CA$56.6m of debt at August 2019, down from CA$68.3m a year prior. On the flip side, it has CA$1.55m in cash leading to net debt of about CA$55.0m.

TSX:GDL Historical Debt, October 27th 2019

A Look At Goodfellow's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Goodfellow had liabilities of CA$89.8m due within a year, and liabilities of CA$5.16m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$1.55m as well as receivables valued at CA$65.2m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CA$28.2m.

This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of CA$41.7m. This suggests shareholders would heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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.

With a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 5.4, it's fair to say Goodfellow does have a significant amount of debt. But the good news is that it boasts fairly comforting interest cover of 3.1 times, suggesting it can responsibly service its obligations. Another concern for investors might be that Goodfellow's EBIT fell 16% in the last year. If that's the way things keep going handling the debt load will be like delivering hot coffees on a pogo stick. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is Goodfellow's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last two years, Goodfellow actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

To be frank both Goodfellow's EBIT growth rate and its track record of managing its debt, based on its EBITDA, make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Looking at the balance sheet and taking into account all these factors, we do believe that debt is making Goodfellow stock a bit risky. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we'd generally feel more comfortable with less leverage. Given Goodfellow 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.