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AIREA (LON:AIEA) Could Easily Take On More Debt

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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 AIREA plc (LON:AIEA) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for AIREA

How Much Debt Does AIREA Carry?

As you can see below, AIREA had UK£3.53m of debt at December 2021, down from UK£3.71m a year prior. However, it does have UK£5.69m in cash offsetting this, leading to net cash of UK£2.16m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
debt-equity-history-analysis

How Healthy Is AIREA's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that AIREA had liabilities of UK£4.56m due within a year, and liabilities of UK£3.81m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of UK£5.69m as well as receivables valued at UK£1.89m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling UK£793.0k more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given AIREA has a market capitalization of UK£11.0m, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. While it does have liabilities worth noting, AIREA also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.

Better yet, AIREA grew its EBIT by 171% last year, which is an impressive improvement. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since AIREA will need earnings to service that debt. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. AIREA may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. Over the last three years, AIREA actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Summing up

We could understand if investors are concerned about AIREA's liabilities, but we can be reassured by the fact it has has net cash of UK£2.16m. The cherry on top was that in converted 106% of that EBIT to free cash flow, bringing in -UK£335k. So we don't think AIREA's use of debt is risky. 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 instance, we've identified 3 warning signs for AIREA (1 is potentially serious) you should be aware of.

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.

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