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Kingfisher (LON:KGF) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

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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.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies Kingfisher plc (LON:KGF) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. 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. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Kingfisher

How Much Debt Does Kingfisher Carry?

As you can see below, Kingfisher had UK£103.0m of debt at January 2021, down from UK£737.0m a year prior. But it also has UK£1.14b in cash to offset that, meaning it has UK£1.04b net cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
debt-equity-history-analysis

A Look At Kingfisher's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Kingfisher had liabilities of UK£3.18b due within 12 months, and liabilities of UK£2.52b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had UK£1.14b in cash and UK£239.0m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by UK£4.32b.

This deficit isn't so bad because Kingfisher is worth a massive UK£7.65b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Kingfisher boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

Importantly, Kingfisher grew its EBIT by 31% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its 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 Kingfisher'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. Kingfisher may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. Happily for any shareholders, Kingfisher actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Summing up

While Kingfisher does have more liabilities than liquid assets, it also has net cash of UK£1.04b. And it impressed us with free cash flow of UK£1.4b, being 112% of its EBIT. So is Kingfisher's debt a risk? It doesn't seem so to us. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example, we've discovered 3 warning signs for Kingfisher (1 shouldn't be ignored!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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