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.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies Jindal Saw Limited (NSE:JINDALSAW) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Jindal Saw's Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Jindal Saw had ₹56.6b of debt in March 2019, down from ₹63.1b, one year before. On the flip side, it has ₹2.21b in cash leading to net debt of about ₹54.4b.
A Look At Jindal Saw's Liabilities
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Jindal Saw had liabilities of ₹58.0b falling due within a year, and liabilities of ₹34.7b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had ₹2.21b in cash and ₹23.5b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling ₹67.0b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the ₹26.0b 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, Jindal Saw would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.
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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).
Jindal Saw's debt is 3.5 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. The good news is that Jindal Saw grew its EBIT a smooth 48% over the last twelve months. 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 Jindal Saw'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Jindal Saw recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 91% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.
We feel some trepidation about Jindal Saw's difficulty level of total liabilities, but we've got positives to focus on, too. To wit both its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and EBIT growth rate were encouraging signs. We think that Jindal Saw's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Jindal Saw, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.
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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