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Is Shiloh Industries (NASDAQ:SHLO) A Risky Investment?

Simply Wall St

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 note that Shiloh Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:SHLO) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

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. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Shiloh Industries

What Is Shiloh Industries's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Shiloh Industries had US$246.4m of debt in April 2019, down from US$257.2m, one year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$17.7m, its net debt is less, at about US$228.7m.

NasdaqGS:SHLO Historical Debt, August 20th 2019

How Healthy Is Shiloh Industries's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Shiloh Industries had liabilities of US$220.8m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$267.3m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$17.7m in cash and US$194.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$275.9m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the US$102.6m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt After all, Shiloh Industries would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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). 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 Shiloh Industries's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.3, we think its super-low interest cover of 1.6 times is a sign of high leverage. In large part that's due to the company's significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Even worse, Shiloh Industries saw its EBIT tank 23% 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 it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Shiloh Industries'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 we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Shiloh Industries recorded free cash flow of 33% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

To be frank both Shiloh Industries's EBIT growth rate and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. Having said that, its ability to convert EBIT to free cash flow isn't such a worry. Taking into account all the aforementioned factors, it looks like Shiloh Industries has too much debt. While some investors love that sort of risky play, it's certainly not our cup of tea. While Shiloh Industries didn't make a statutory profit in the last year, its positive EBIT suggests that profitability might not be far away.Click here to see if its earnings are heading in the right direction, over the medium term.

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.

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.