Metals

Alkali Metals (NSE:ALKALI) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, ‘The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about… and every practical investor I know worries about.’ 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. As with many other companies Alkali Metals Limited (NSE:ALKALI) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. 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. 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.

View our latest analysis for Alkali Metals

What Is Alkali Metals’s Net Debt?

As you can see below, Alkali Metals had ₹191.6m of debt, at September 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it does have ₹25.9m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₹165.8m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:ALKALI Debt to Equity History January 14th 2023

How Healthy Is Alkali Metals’ Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Alkali Metals had liabilities of ₹373.8m due within a year, and liabilities of ₹82.1m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had ₹25.9m in cash and ₹67.9m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₹362.1m.

Alkali Metals has a market capitalization of ₹1.52b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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). 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).

Alkali Metals’s net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 1.7 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 2.8 times last year. While these numbers do not alarm us, it’s worth noting that the cost of the company’s debt is having a real impact. One way Alkali Metals could vanquish its debt would be if it stops borrowing more but continues to grow EBIT at around 13%, as it did over the last year. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But you can’t view debt in total isolation; since Alkali Metals will need earnings to service that debt. So if you’re keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Alkali Metals actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. There’s nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders’ good graces.

Our View

Happily, Alkali Metals’s impressive conversion of EBIT to free cash flow implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But the stark truth is that we are concerned by its interest cover. Looking at all the aforementioned factors together, it strikes us that Alkali Metals 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. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. For example Alkali Metals has 3 warning signs (and 1 which is a bit concerning) we think you should know about.

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.

Valuation is complex, but we’re helping make it simple.

Find out whether Alkali Metals is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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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