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Is Inter-Rock Minerals (CVE:IRO) Using Too Much Debt?

Simply Wall St

Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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. Importantly, Inter-Rock Minerals Inc. (CVE:IRO) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Inter-Rock Minerals

What Is Inter-Rock Minerals's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Inter-Rock Minerals had US$9.11m of debt in June 2019, down from US$10.1m, one year before. On the flip side, it has US$2.22m in cash leading to net debt of about US$6.89m.

TSXV:IRO Historical Debt, September 10th 2019

How Healthy Is Inter-Rock Minerals's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Inter-Rock Minerals had liabilities of US$4.81m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$8.29m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$2.22m and US$3.39m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$7.49m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the US$4.99m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Inter-Rock Minerals would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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.

Inter-Rock Minerals's debt is 2.8 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 3.3 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Worse, Inter-Rock Minerals's EBIT was down 32% 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. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Inter-Rock Minerals'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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Inter-Rock Minerals recorded free cash flow worth 74% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

On the face of it, Inter-Rock Minerals's level of total liabilities 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. But at least it's pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that's encouraging. Overall, it seems to us that Inter-Rock Minerals'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. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Inter-Rock Minerals, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.

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.