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. Importantly, Tailored Brands, Inc. (NYSE:TLRD) does carry debt. 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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
What Is Tailored Brands's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Tailored Brands had debt of US$1.16b at the end of May 2019, a reduction from US$1.29b over a year. However, it does have US$30.9m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$1.13b.
A Look At Tailored Brands's Liabilities
According to the last reported balance sheet, Tailored Brands had liabilities of US$743.2m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$2.03b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$30.9m in cash and US$85.7m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.65b.
This deficit casts a shadow over the US$312.7m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt At the end of the day, Tailored Brands would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.
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.
Tailored Brands's debt is 3.4 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 3.0 times over. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. More concerning, Tailored Brands saw its EBIT drop by 9.3% in the last twelve months. If it keeps going like that paying off its debt will be like running on a treadmill -- a lot of effort for not much advancement. 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 Tailored Brands'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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Tailored Brands recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 86% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
We'd go so far as to say Tailored Brands's level of total liabilities was disappointing. But at least it's pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that's encouraging. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Tailored Brands has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. In light of our reservations about the company's balance sheet, it seems sensible to check if insiders have been selling shares 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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