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Unidata could easily take on more debt

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. As with many other companies Unidata S.p.A. makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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 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 think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

What Is Unidata’s Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2022 Unidata had €6.76m of debt, an increase on €5.01m, over one year. On the flip side, it has €6.58m in cash leading to net debt of about €177.2k.

How Healthy Is Unidata’s Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Unidata had liabilities of €31.0m due within a year, and liabilities of €20.1m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had €6.58m in cash and €18.7m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by €25.8m.

This deficit isn’t so bad because Unidata is worth €111.4m, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt. But either way, Unidata has virtually no net debt, so it’s fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

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 debt at a measly 0.012 times EBITDA and EBIT covering interest a whopping 35.1 times, it’s clear that Unidata is not a desperate borrower. Indeed relative to its earnings its debt load seems light as a feather. Better yet, Unidata grew its EBIT by 124% last year, which is an impressive improvement. That boost will make it even easier to pay down debt going forward. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Unidata 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Unidata produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 64% of its EBIT, about what we’d expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate. SimplyWall

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