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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. 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 AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AMC) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. 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.
What Is AMC Entertainment Holdings's Net Debt?
As you can see below, AMC Entertainment Holdings had US$4.73b of debt, at June 2019, which is about the same the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$190.5m, its net debt is less, at about US$4.54b.
A Look At AMC Entertainment Holdings's Liabilities
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that AMC Entertainment Holdings had liabilities of US$1.71b due within 12 months and liabilities of US$10.5b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$190.5m in cash and US$228.5m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$11.8b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$999.0m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet." So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt After all, AMC Entertainment Holdings 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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
AMC Entertainment Holdings shareholders face the double whammy of a high net debt to EBITDA ratio (6.7), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 0.65 times the interest expense. The debt burden here is substantial. Worse, AMC Entertainment Holdings's EBIT was down 43% over the last year. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. 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 AMC Entertainment Holdings'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, AMC Entertainment Holdings 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.
On the face of it, AMC Entertainment Holdings's EBIT growth rate left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. And furthermore, its interest cover also fails to instill confidence. Considering everything we've mentioned above, it's fair to say that AMC Entertainment Holdings is carrying heavy debt load. If you harvest honey without a bee suit, you risk getting stung, so we'd probably stay away from this particular stock. While AMC Entertainment Holdings didn't make a statutory profit in the last year, its positive EBIT suggests that profitability might not be far away.Click here to see if its earnings are heading in the right direction, over the medium term.
Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.