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Is Rayonier Advanced Materials (NYSE:RYAM) Using Too Much Debt?

Simply Wall St

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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, Rayonier Advanced Materials Inc. (NYSE:RYAM) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Rayonier Advanced Materials

How Much Debt Does Rayonier Advanced Materials Carry?

As you can see below, Rayonier Advanced Materials had US$1.22b of debt, at March 2019, which is about the same the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. On the flip side, it has US$68.9m in cash leading to net debt of about US$1.15b.

NYSE:RYAM Historical Debt, August 6th 2019
NYSE:RYAM Historical Debt, August 6th 2019

A Look At Rayonier Advanced Materials's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Rayonier Advanced Materials had liabilities of US$328.9m due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.65b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$68.9m in cash and US$201.7m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$1.70b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$243.5m 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 At the end of the day, Rayonier Advanced Materials would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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.

Rayonier Advanced Materials's debt is 3.8 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 3.0 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. Looking on the bright side, Rayonier Advanced Materials boosted its EBIT by a silky 79% in the last year. Like a mother's loving embrace of a newborn that sort of growth builds resilience, putting the company in a stronger position to manage its debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Rayonier Advanced Materials 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, 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 most recent three years, Rayonier Advanced Materials recorded free cash flow worth 53% 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

Mulling over Rayonier Advanced Materials's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Once we consider all the factors above, together, it seems to us that Rayonier Advanced Materials's debt is making it a bit risky. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we'd generally feel more comfortable with less leverage. Given our hesitation about the stock, it would be good to know if Rayonier Advanced Materials insiders have sold any shares recently. You click here to find out if insiders have sold recently.

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.

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.