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. We note that Indo Count Industries Limited (NSE:ICIL) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Indo Count Industries's Debt?
As you can see below, Indo Count Industries had ₹3.37b of debt at March 2019, down from ₹3.84b a year prior. However, it does have ₹737.8m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₹2.64b.
A Look At Indo Count Industries's Liabilities
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Indo Count Industries had liabilities of ₹4.62b falling due within a year, and liabilities of ₹1.80b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had ₹737.8m in cash and ₹3.20b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total ₹2.49b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Indo Count Industries has a market capitalization of ₹9.55b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. 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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Looking at its net debt to EBITDA of 1.3 and interest cover of 6.8 times, it seems to us that Indo Count Industries is probably using debt in a pretty reasonable way. So we'd recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. And we also note warmly that Indo Count Industries grew its EBIT by 18% last year, making its debt load easier to handle. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Indo Count Industries'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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Indo Count Industries produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 51% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
Happily, Indo Count Industries's impressive EBIT growth rate implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And we also thought its net debt to EBITDA was a positive. Looking at all the aforementioned factors together, it strikes us that Indo Count Industries can handle its debt fairly comfortably. On the plus side, this leverage can boost shareholder returns, but the potential downside is more risk of loss, so it's worth monitoring the balance sheet. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Indo Count Industries, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.
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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