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Hang Lung Group (HKG:10) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

Simply Wall St ·  {{timeTz}}

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.' 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. Importantly, Hang Lung Group Limited (HKG:10) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Hang Lung Group

What Is Hang Lung Group's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2022, Hang Lung Group had HK$44.9b of debt, up from HK$41.3b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had HK$5.31b in cash, and so its net debt is HK$39.6b.

debt-equity-history-analysisSEHK:10 Debt to Equity History October 5th 2022

A Look At Hang Lung Group's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Hang Lung Group had liabilities of HK$13.6b due within a year, and liabilities of HK$57.1b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of HK$5.31b and HK$3.53b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling HK$61.8b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the HK$17.8b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. After all, Hang Lung Group would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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.

As it happens Hang Lung Group has a fairly concerning net debt to EBITDA ratio of 5.3 but very strong interest coverage of 19.4. So either it has access to very cheap long term debt or that interest expense is going to grow! Hang Lung Group grew its EBIT by 7.8% in the last year. Whilst that hardly knocks our socks off it is a positive when it comes to debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Hang Lung Group will need earnings to service that debt. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

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 most recent three years, Hang Lung Group recorded free cash flow worth 60% 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

To be frank both Hang Lung Group's net debt to EBITDA and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its interest cover is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Looking at the balance sheet and taking into account all these factors, we do believe that debt is making Hang Lung Group stock a bit risky. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we'd generally feel more comfortable with less leverage. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. To that end, you should learn about the 2 warning signs we've spotted with Hang Lung Group (including 1 which is a bit unpleasant) .

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.

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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