Elektro Maribor d.d (LJSE:EMAG) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet
The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says ‘The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.’ 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 can see that Elektro Maribor d.d. (LJSE:EMAG) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
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 usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. 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.
View our latest analysis for Elektro Maribor d.d
What Is Elektro Maribor d.d’s Net Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of December 2020 Elektro Maribor d.d had €49.5m of debt, an increase on €44.1m, over one year. On the flip side, it has €13.9m in cash leading to net debt of about €35.5m.
How Healthy Is Elektro Maribor d.d’s Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Elektro Maribor d.d had liabilities of €41.2m due within a year, and liabilities of €86.0m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €13.9m as well as receivables valued at €42.8m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling €70.4m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of €94.0m. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.
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.
Elektro Maribor d.d’s net debt is only 1.0 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 61.9 times over. So we’re pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. But the bad news is that Elektro Maribor d.d has seen its EBIT plunge 20% in the last twelve months. If that rate of decline in earnings continues, the company could find itself in a tight spot. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But you can’t view debt in total isolation; since Elektro Maribor d.d will need earnings to service that debt. So if you’re keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.
Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it’s worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. In the last three years, Elektro Maribor d.d created free cash flow amounting to 4.3% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.
Mulling over Elektro Maribor d.d’s attempt at (not) growing its EBIT, we’re certainly not enthusiastic. But at least it’s pretty decent at covering its interest expense with its EBIT; that’s encouraging. It’s also worth noting that Elektro Maribor d.d is in the Electric Utilities industry, which is often considered to be quite defensive. Once we consider all the factors above, together, it seems to us that Elektro Maribor d.d’s debt is making it 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. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. We’ve identified 2 warning signs with Elektro Maribor d.d (at least 1 which is potentially serious) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
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.
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