Warren Buffett famously said, ‘Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.’ So it seems the smart money knows that debt – which is usually involved in bankruptcies – is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. We can see that Premium Snacks Nordic AB (publ) (STO:SNX) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
When Is Debt Dangerous?
Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can’t easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
How Much Debt Does Premium Snacks Nordic Carry?
As you can see below, Premium Snacks Nordic had kr36.2m of debt at March 2022, down from kr52.4m a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of kr2.31m, its net debt is less, at about kr33.8m.
How Healthy Is Premium Snacks Nordic’s Balance Sheet?
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Premium Snacks Nordic had liabilities of kr63.4m due within 12 months and liabilities of kr18.6m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of kr2.31m and kr30.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling kr49.8m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Premium Snacks Nordic has a market capitalization of kr99.9m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.
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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
While we wouldn’t worry about Premium Snacks Nordic’s net debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.6, we think its super-low interest cover of 0.92 times is a sign of high leverage. In large part that’s due to the company’s significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Worse, Premium Snacks Nordic’s EBIT was down 75% over the last year. If earnings keep going like that over the long term, it has a snowball’s chance in hell of paying off that debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Premium Snacks Nordic can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept 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, Premium Snacks Nordic burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.
To be frank both Premium Snacks Nordic’s conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and its track record of (not) growing its EBIT make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. Having said that, its ability to handle its total liabilities isn’t such a worry. Overall, it seems to us that Premium Snacks Nordic’s balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. So we’re almost as wary of this stock as a hungry kitten is about falling into its owner’s fish pond: once bitten, twice shy, as they say. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. For instance, we’ve identified 3 warning signs for Premium Snacks Nordic (2 can’t be ignored) you should be aware of.
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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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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