David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' 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. Importantly, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. (TSE:GDI) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
What Is GDI Integrated Facility Services's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2019 GDI Integrated Facility Services had debt of CA$166.6m, up from CA$128.4m in one year. On the flip side, it has CA$8.40m in cash leading to net debt of about CA$158.2m.
How Strong Is GDI Integrated Facility Services's Balance Sheet?
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that GDI Integrated Facility Services had liabilities of CA$176.7m due within 12 months and liabilities of CA$181.4m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$8.40m as well as receivables valued at CA$245.6m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total CA$104.1m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Since publicly traded GDI Integrated Facility Services shares are worth a total of CA$614.2m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.
We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
GDI Integrated Facility Services's debt is 2.7 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 3.1 times over. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. On a slightly more positive note, GDI Integrated Facility Services grew its EBIT at 16% 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 it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine GDI Integrated Facility Services's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs 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 three years, GDI Integrated Facility Services recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 96% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
Happily, GDI Integrated Facility Services's impressive conversion of EBIT to free cash flow implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But we must concede we find its interest cover has the opposite effect. Looking at all the aforementioned factors together, it strikes us that GDI Integrated Facility Services can handle its debt fairly comfortably. On the plus side, this leverage can boost shareholder returns, but the potential downside is more risk of loss, so it's worth monitoring the balance sheet. Above most other metrics, we think its important to track how fast earnings per share is growing, if at all. If you've also come to that realization, you're in luck, because today you can view this interactive graph of GDI Integrated Facility Services's earnings per share history for free.
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 email@example.com. 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.