Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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. We note that Hainan Poly Pharm. Co., Ltd (SZSE:300630) does have debt on its balance sheet . But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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 examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
Check out our latest analysis for Hainan Poly Pharm
How Much Debt Does Hainan Poly Pharm Carry?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of March 2022 Hainan Poly Pharm had CN¥1.52b of debt, an increase on CN¥893.7m, over one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of CN¥471.2m, its net debt is less, at about CN¥1.05b.SZSE:300630 Debt to Equity History August 4th 2022
How Healthy Is Hainan Poly Pharm's Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Hainan Poly Pharm had liabilities of CN¥1.04b falling due within a year, and liabilities of CN¥1.19b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CN¥471.2m as well as receivables valued at CN¥956.7m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CN¥801.8m.
Since publicly traded Hainan Poly Pharm shares are worth a total of CN¥12.0b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.
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.
With a debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.7, Hainan Poly Pharm uses debt artfully but responsibly. And the fact that its trailing twelve months of EBIT was 9.1 times its interest expenses harmonizes with that theme. Also good is that Hainan Poly Pharm grew its EBIT at 16% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Hainan Poly Pharm'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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Hainan Poly Pharm saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. 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.
Hainan Poly Pharm's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a real negative on this analysis, although the other factors we considered were considerably better. There's no doubt that it has an adequate capacity to cover its interest expense with its EBIT. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Hainan Poly Pharm's debt levels. 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. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Hainan Poly Pharm (1 is concerning) you should be aware of.
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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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.