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Is TORM (CPH:TRMD A) A Risky Investment?

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, TORM plc (CPH:TRMD A) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for TORM

How Much Debt Does TORM Carry?

As you can see below, TORM had US$691.5m of debt at June 2019, down from US$752.1m a year prior. However, it does have US$106.4m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$585.1m.

CPSE:TRMD A Historical Debt, October 11th 2019

A Look At TORM's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, TORM had liabilities of US$174.0m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$679.9m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of US$106.4m and US$87.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$660.5m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$710.3m, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on TORM's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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.

While TORM's debt to EBITDA ratio (3.8) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 1.3, suggesting 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. Looking on the bright side, TORM boosted its EBIT by a silky 52% 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. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine TORM'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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, TORM saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

On the face of it, TORM's interest cover left us tentative about the stock, and its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least it's pretty decent at growing its EBIT; that's encouraging. Looking at the bigger picture, it seems clear to us that TORM's use of debt is creating risks for the company. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. Above most other metrics, we think its important to track how fast earnings per share is growing, if at all. If you've also come to that realization, you're in luck, because today you can view this interactive graph of TORM's earnings per share history for free.

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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.