Does Grifols (BME:GRF) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

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.’ When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We can see that Grifols, S.A. (BME:GRF) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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.

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What Is Grifols’s Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of September 2023, Grifols had €11.1b of debt, up from €9.73b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have €484.2m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about €10.6b.

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BME:GRF Debt to Equity History February 20th 2024

How Healthy Is Grifols’ Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Grifols had liabilities of €2.03b due within a year, and liabilities of €11.5b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €484.2m as well as receivables valued at €908.0m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by €12.1b.

This deficit casts a shadow over the €6.67b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we’d watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. At the end of the day, Grifols would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

In order to size up a company’s debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Weak interest cover of 1.5 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 10.8 hit our confidence in Grifols like a one-two punch to the gut. This means we’d consider it to have a heavy debt load. On a slightly more positive note, Grifols grew its EBIT at 12% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Grifols’s ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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. So it’s worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Grifols recorded negative free cash flow, in total. Debt is far more risky for companies with unreliable free cash flow, so shareholders should be hoping that the past expenditure will produce free cash flow in the future.

Our View

To be frank both Grifols’s net debt to EBITDA and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Taking into account all the aforementioned factors, it looks like Grifols has too much debt. While some investors love that sort of risky play, it’s certainly not our cup of tea. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. Be aware that Grifols is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 2 of those are potentially serious…

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 Grifols 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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