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 Innelec Multimédia SA (EPA:INN) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Innelec Multimédia's Net Debt?
As you can see below, at the end of September 2018, Innelec Multimédia had €13.4m of debt, up from €9.70m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had €2.64m in cash, and so its net debt is €10.8m.
How Healthy Is Innelec Multimédia's Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Innelec Multimédia had liabilities of €40.5m falling due within a year, and liabilities of €1.42m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had €2.64m in cash and €35.3m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €4.04m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Innelec Multimédia has a market capitalization of €16.6m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Innelec Multimédia's net debt is 4.6 times its EBITDA, which is a significant but still reasonable amount of leverage. But its EBIT was about 1k times its interest expense, implying the company isn't really paying full freight on that debt. Even if not sustainable, that is a good sign. Notably, Innelec Multimédia's EBIT launched higher than Elon Musk, gaining a whopping 103% on last year. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Innelec Multimédia'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, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last two years, Innelec Multimédia 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.
Based on what we've seen Innelec Multimédia is not finding it easy conversion of EBIT to free cash flow, but the other factors we considered give us cause to be optimistic. There's no doubt that its ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT is pretty flash. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Innelec Multimédia's debt levels. 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. Another positive for shareholders is that it pays dividends. So if you like receiving those dividend payments, check Innelec Multimédia's dividend history, without delay!
If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.
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