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. 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 can see that Outokumpu Oyj (HEL:OUT1V) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
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. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
What Is Outokumpu Oyj's Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2019 Outokumpu Oyj had debt of €1.41b, up from €1.34b in one year. On the flip side, it has €215.0m in cash leading to net debt of about €1.20b.
How Healthy Is Outokumpu Oyj's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Outokumpu Oyj had liabilities of €2.41b due within a year, and liabilities of €1.16b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had €215.0m in cash and €739.0m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by €2.61b.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the €1.16b company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet." So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt After all, Outokumpu Oyj would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.
We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
While we wouldn't worry about Outokumpu Oyj's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.0, we think its super-low interest cover of 1.3 times is a sign of high leverage. It seems that the business incurs large depreciation and amortisation charges, so maybe its debt load is heavier than it would first appear, since EBITDA is arguably a generous measure of earnings. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. Even worse, Outokumpu Oyj saw its EBIT tank 54% over the last 12 months. If earnings keep going like that over the long term, it has a snowball's chance in hell of paying off that debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Outokumpu Oyj can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Outokumpu Oyj recorded free cash flow worth 66% 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.
On the face of it, Outokumpu Oyj's EBIT growth rate left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities 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. Taking into account all the aforementioned factors, it looks like Outokumpu Oyj has too much debt. That sort of riskiness is ok for some, but it certainly doesn't float our boat. Given Outokumpu Oyj has a strong balance sheet is profitable and pays a dividend, it would be good to know how fast its dividends are growing, if at all. You can find out instantly by clicking this link.
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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