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Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. As with many other companies Tribal Group plc (LON:TRB) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
When Is Debt A Problem?
Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Tribal Group Carry?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Tribal Group had UK£2.50m of debt in June 2021, down from UK£10.0m, one year before. However, its balance sheet shows it holds UK£6.79m in cash, so it actually has UK£4.29m net cash.
How Healthy Is Tribal Group's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Tribal Group had liabilities of UK£41.2m due within a year, and liabilities of UK£8.77m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had UK£6.79m in cash and UK£14.5m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by UK£28.7m.
Given Tribal Group has a market capitalization of UK£201.1m, 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. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Tribal Group boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!
Also good is that Tribal Group grew its EBIT at 12% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. 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 Tribal Group 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. Tribal Group 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. In the last three years, Tribal Group's free cash flow amounted to 48% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.
Although Tribal Group's balance sheet isn't particularly strong, due to the total liabilities, it is clearly positive to see that it has net cash of UK£4.29m. On top of that, it increased its EBIT by 12% in the last twelve months. So we are not troubled with Tribal Group's debt use. 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 2 warning signs for Tribal Group that 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.
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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