Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, '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 Kingboard Holdings Limited (HKG:148) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
See our latest analysis for Kingboard Holdings
What Is Kingboard Holdings's Net Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2022 Kingboard Holdings had HK$19.5b of debt, an increase on HK$17.6b, over one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of HK$10.1b, its net debt is less, at about HK$9.38b.SEHK:148 Debt to Equity History September 16th 2022
How Healthy Is Kingboard Holdings' Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Kingboard Holdings had liabilities of HK$22.3b due within a year, and liabilities of HK$12.3b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of HK$10.1b as well as receivables valued at HK$12.8b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by HK$11.6b.
Kingboard Holdings has a market capitalization of HK$28.1b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. 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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Kingboard Holdings has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.58. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 80.7 times over. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. Also good is that Kingboard Holdings grew its EBIT at 15% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage 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 Kingboard Holdings's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. 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, Kingboard Holdings produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 51% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.
The good news is that Kingboard Holdings's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its net debt to EBITDA is also very heartening. All these things considered, it appears that Kingboard Holdings can comfortably handle its current debt levels. On the plus side, this leverage can boost shareholder returns, but the potential downside is more risk of loss, so it's worth monitoring the balance sheet. 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 example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Kingboard Holdings that you should be aware of before investing here.
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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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.