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.’ 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. Importantly, Birman Wood & Hardware Ltd (TLV:BIRM) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Birman Wood & Hardware

How Much Debt Does Birman Wood & Hardware Carry?

As you can see below, Birman Wood & Hardware had ₪174.6m of debt, at June 2020, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. And it doesn’t have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.

TASE:BIRM Debt to Equity History October 10th 2020

A Look At Birman Wood & Hardware’s Liabilities

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Birman Wood & Hardware had liabilities of ₪148.7m due within 12 months and liabilities of ₪67.9m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of ₪2.02m and ₪125.3m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₪89.3m.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of ₪118.1m, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Birman Wood & Hardware’s use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

With a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 6.8, it’s fair to say Birman Wood & Hardware does have a significant amount of debt. However, its interest coverage of 3.3 is reasonably strong, which is a good sign. Fortunately, Birman Wood & Hardware grew its EBIT by 6.5% in the last year, slowly shrinking its debt relative to earnings. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Birman Wood & Hardware’s earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. 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. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Birman Wood & Hardware actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

Neither Birman Wood & Hardware’s ability handle its debt, based on its EBITDA, nor its interest cover gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But the good news is it seems to be able to convert EBIT to free cash flow with ease. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Birman Wood & Hardware is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. To that end, you should learn about the 4 warning signs we’ve spotted with Birman Wood & Hardware (including 2 which is are significant) .

If, after all that, you’re more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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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. 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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