Does Signify (AMS:LIGHT) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says ‘The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.’ 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. As with many other companies Signify N.V. (AMS:LIGHT) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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 common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well – and to its own advantage. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Signify

What Is Signify’s Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2023, Signify had €1.99b of debt, up from €1.78b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had €1.16b in cash, and so its net debt is €835.0m.

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ENXTAM:LIGHT Debt to Equity History March 22nd 2024

A Look At Signify’s Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Signify had liabilities of €3.03b due within a year, and liabilities of €2.03b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of €1.16b and €1.07b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling €2.83b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of €3.48b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Signify’s use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Signify’s net debt is only 1.1 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 11.2 times over. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. But the other side of the story is that Signify saw its EBIT decline by 5.7% over the last year. That sort of decline, if sustained, will obviously make debt harder to handle. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Signify’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.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Signify produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 75% 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.

Our View

Signify’s interest cover was a real positive on this analysis, as was its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. On the other hand, its level of total liabilities makes us a little less comfortable about its debt. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Signify’s debt levels. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we’d suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. To that end, you should be aware of the 3 warning signs we’ve spotted with Signify .

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.

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

Find out whether Signify 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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