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Here's Why Superior Industries International (NYSE:SUP) Is Weighed Down By Its Debt Load

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 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. As with many other companies Superior Industries International, Inc. (NYSE:SUP) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Superior Industries International

How Much Debt Does Superior Industries International Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Superior Industries International had US$644.0m of debt in June 2019, down from US$673.0m, one year before. However, it does have US$56.9m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$587.0m.

NYSE:SUP Historical Debt, September 10th 2019

A Look At Superior Industries International's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Superior Industries International had liabilities of US$202.5m due within a year, and liabilities of US$729.7m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$56.9m and US$128.1m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$747.1m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the US$72.9m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Superior Industries International would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

While Superior Industries International's debt to EBITDA ratio (3.5) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 1.6, suggesting high leverage. It seems that the business incurs large depreciation and amortisation charges, so maybe its debt load is heavier than it would first appear, since EBITDA is arguably a generous measure of earnings. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Worse, Superior Industries International's EBIT was down 21% over the last year. If earnings keep going like that over the long term, it has a snowball's chance in hell of paying off that debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Superior Industries International's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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. Over the most recent three years, Superior Industries International recorded free cash flow worth 69% 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

To be frank both Superior Industries International's EBIT growth rate and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least it's pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that's encouraging. Overall, it seems to us that Superior Industries International's balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. Given the risks around Superior Industries International's use of debt, the sensible thing to do is to check if insiders have been unloading the stock.

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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.