Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital. It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. Importantly, Nextedia S.A. (EPA:ALNXT) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
When Is Debt Dangerous?
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 usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Nextedia's Net Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Nextedia had €2.22m of debt in June 2019, down from €2.66m, one year before. However, it also had €1.46m in cash, and so its net debt is €752.4k.
A Look At Nextedia's Liabilities
The latest balance sheet data shows that Nextedia had liabilities of €14.7m due within a year, and liabilities of €515.4k falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €1.46m as well as receivables valued at €10.4m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €3.38m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Nextedia has a market capitalization of €12.1m, 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.
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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).
Nextedia has a low debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.37. But the really cool thing is that it actually managed to receive more interest than it paid, over the last year. So it's fair to say it can handle debt like a hot shot teppanyaki chef handles cooking. Also good is that Nextedia grew its EBIT at 18% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. 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 Nextedia'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.
Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, Nextedia actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.
Happily, Nextedia's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And the good news does not stop there, as its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow also supports that impression! Zooming out, Nextedia seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Nextedia, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.
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.
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