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 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 Lundin Mining Corporation (TSE:LUN) makes use of 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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well – and to its own advantage. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Lundin Mining Carry?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Lundin Mining had US$155.9m of debt in March 2021, down from US$442.2m, one year before. However, its balance sheet shows it holds US$181.3m in cash, so it actually has US$25.5m net cash.
How Healthy Is Lundin Mining's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Lundin Mining had liabilities of US$602.6m due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.91b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$181.3m in cash and US$503.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$1.83b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Lundin Mining has a market capitalization of US$7.76b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution. While it does have liabilities worth noting, Lundin Mining also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.
Even more impressive was the fact that Lundin Mining grew its EBIT by 349% over twelve months. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Lundin Mining can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. Lundin Mining may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. Considering the last three years, Lundin Mining actually recorded a cash outflow, overall. 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.
Although Lundin Mining's balance sheet isn't particularly strong, due to the total liabilities, it is clearly positive to see that it has net cash of US$25.5m. And it impressed us with its EBIT growth of 349% over the last year. So we don't have any problem with Lundin Mining's use of debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example – Lundin Mining has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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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