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.' 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. We note that Regina Miracle International (Holdings) Limited (HKG:2199) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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.
How Much Debt Does Regina Miracle International (Holdings) Carry?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of March 2019 Regina Miracle International (Holdings) had HK$3.02b of debt, an increase on HK$2.15b, over one year. However, it does have HK$466.4m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about HK$2.56b.
How Strong Is Regina Miracle International (Holdings)'s Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, Regina Miracle International (Holdings) had liabilities of HK$1.85b due within 12 months, and liabilities of HK$2.18b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of HK$466.4m and HK$863.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total HK$2.70b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Regina Miracle International (Holdings) has a market capitalization of HK$5.99b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.
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). 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).
Regina Miracle International (Holdings)'s debt is 3.6 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 4.1 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. However, one redeeming factor is that Regina Miracle International (Holdings) grew its EBIT at 16% over the last 12 months, boosting its ability to handle its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Regina Miracle International (Holdings)'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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Regina Miracle International (Holdings) burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.
We'd go so far as to say Regina Miracle International (Holdings)'s conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was disappointing. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Looking at the balance sheet and taking into account all these factors, we do believe that debt is making Regina Miracle International (Holdings) stock a bit risky. Some people like that sort of risk, but we're mindful of the potential pitfalls, so we'd probably prefer it carry less debt. Given our hesitation about the stock, it would be good to know if Regina Miracle International (Holdings) insiders have sold any shares recently. You click here to find out if insiders have sold recently.
When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.