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 note that DMC Global Inc. (NASDAQ:BOOM) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
When Is Debt Dangerous?
Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is DMC Global's Net Debt?
As you can see below, DMC Global had US$35.9m of debt, at June 2019, which is about the same the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it also had US$14.9m in cash, and so its net debt is US$21.0m.
How Healthy Is DMC Global's Balance Sheet?
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that DMC Global had liabilities of US$70.3m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$51.4m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$14.9m as well as receivables valued at US$76.8m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$30.0m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Given DMC Global has a market capitalization of US$672.1m, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.
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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).
DMC Global has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.24. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 42.7 times the size. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. Even more impressive was the fact that DMC Global grew its EBIT by 169% over twelve months. That boost will make it even easier to pay down debt going forward. 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 DMC Global 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. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last two years, DMC Global recorded negative free cash flow, in total. Debt is far more risky for companies with unreliable free cash flow, so shareholders should be hoping that the past expenditure will produce free cash flow in the future.
The good news is that DMC Global's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But the stark truth is that we are concerned by its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like DMC Global is pretty sensible with its use of debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. Of course, we wouldn't say no to the extra confidence that we'd gain if we knew that DMC Global insiders have been buying shares: if you're on the same wavelength, you can find out if insiders are buying by clicking this link.
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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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.