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These 4 Measures Indicate That HKT Trust and HKT (HKG:6823) Is Using Debt Extensively

Simply Wall St ·  {{timeTz}}

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. As with many other companies HKT Trust and HKT Limited (HKG:6823) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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. 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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for HKT Trust and HKT

What Is HKT Trust and HKT's Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that HKT Trust and HKT had HK$44.3b in debt in June 2022; about the same as the year before. However, it does have HK$2.05b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about HK$42.3b.

debt-equity-history-analysisSEHK:6823 Debt to Equity History August 17th 2022

A Look At HKT Trust and HKT's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that HKT Trust and HKT had liabilities of HK$21.5b falling due within a year, and liabilities of HK$52.5b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of HK$2.05b and HK$4.33b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by HK$67.6b.

This is a mountain of leverage even relative to its gargantuan market capitalization of HK$84.1b. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

HKT Trust and HKT's debt is 4.7 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 6.1 times over. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. Notably HKT Trust and HKT's EBIT was pretty flat over the last year. Ideally it can diminish its debt load by kick-starting earnings growth. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if HKT Trust and HKT can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, HKT Trust and HKT recorded free cash flow worth 78% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

HKT Trust and HKT's net debt to EBITDA and level of total liabilities definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that HKT Trust and HKT is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for HKT Trust and HKT (1 is a bit unpleasant!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
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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