Does Bolloré (EPA:BOL) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?
David Iben put it well when he said, ‘Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.’ 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, Bolloré SE (EPA:BOL) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. Ultimately, if the company can’t fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
Check out our latest analysis for Bolloré
What Is Bolloré’s Debt?
As you can see below, Bolloré had €11.6b of debt at December 2020, down from €12.3b a year prior. On the flip side, it has €2.48b in cash leading to net debt of about €9.14b.
A Look At Bolloré’s Liabilities
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Bolloré had liabilities of €17.4b falling due within a year, and liabilities of €14.5b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of €2.48b and €6.69b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total €22.7b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the €12.4b 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, Bolloré 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.
Bolloré has net debt to EBITDA of 3.8 suggesting it uses a fair bit of leverage to boost returns. But the high interest coverage of 9.7 suggests it can easily service that debt. Also relevant is that Bolloré has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 28% in the last year, thus enhancing its ability to pay down 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 Bolloré’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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Bolloré generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 92% of its EBIT, more than we’d expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.
Based on what we’ve seen Bolloré is not finding it easy, given its level of total liabilities, but the other factors we considered give us cause to be optimistic. In particular, we are dazzled with its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Bolloré’s use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. Be aware that Bolloré is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is significant…
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.
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