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 note that Lonking Holdings Limited (HKG:3339) does have debt on its balance sheet . But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
View our latest analysis for Lonking Holdings
What Is Lonking Holdings's Net Debt?
As you can see below, Lonking Holdings had CN¥682.4m of debt, at June 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, its balance sheet shows it holds CN¥4.69b in cash, so it actually has CN¥4.01b net cash.SEHK:3339 Debt to Equity History September 26th 2022
How Strong Is Lonking Holdings' Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Lonking Holdings had liabilities of CN¥5.56b falling due within a year, and liabilities of CN¥736.4m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of CN¥4.69b and CN¥3.28b worth of receivables due within a year. So it actually has CN¥1.67b more liquid assets than total liabilities.
This surplus liquidity suggests that Lonking Holdings' balance sheet could take a hit just as well as Homer Simpson's head can take a punch. On this view, lenders should feel as safe as the beloved of a black-belt karate master. Simply put, the fact that Lonking Holdings has more cash than debt is arguably a good indication that it can manage its debt safely.
It is just as well that Lonking Holdings's load is not too heavy, because its EBIT was down 68% over the last year. Falling earnings (if the trend continues) could eventually make even modest debt quite risky. 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 Lonking Holdings 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. While Lonking Holdings has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. Over the most recent three years, Lonking Holdings recorded free cash flow worth 53% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
While we empathize with investors who find debt concerning, you should keep in mind that Lonking Holdings has net cash of CN¥4.01b, as well as more liquid assets than liabilities. So we are not troubled with Lonking Holdings's debt use. 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. Be aware that Lonking Holdings is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those shouldn't be ignored...
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.
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.