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Here's Why Motorcar Parts of America (NASDAQ:MPAA) Is Weighed Down By Its Debt Load

Simply Wall St

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 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. We note that Motorcar Parts of America, Inc. (NASDAQ:MPAA) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. 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 Motorcar Parts of America

How Much Debt Does Motorcar Parts of America Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2019, Motorcar Parts of America had US$162.3m of debt, up from US$75.1m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had US$13.3m in cash, and so its net debt is US$149.0m.

NasdaqGS:MPAA Historical Debt, November 12th 2019

A Look At Motorcar Parts of America's Liabilities

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Motorcar Parts of America had liabilities of US$302.0m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$117.0m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$13.3m as well as receivables valued at US$78.3m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$327.4m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of US$377.8m. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

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). 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).

While we wouldn't worry about Motorcar Parts of America's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.1, we think its super-low interest cover of 1.2 times is a sign of high leverage. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. Worse, Motorcar Parts of America's EBIT was down 32% over the last year. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Motorcar Parts of America's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Motorcar Parts of America 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, Motorcar Parts of America'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 net debt to EBITDA also fails to instill confidence. Taking into account all the aforementioned factors, it looks like Motorcar Parts of America has too much debt. While some investors love that sort of risky play, it's certainly not our cup of tea. While Motorcar Parts of America didn't make a statutory profit in the last year, its positive EBIT suggests that profitability might not be far away.Click here to see if its earnings are heading in the right direction, over the medium term.

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.