September 30, 2022

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. Importantly, Wing Lee Property Investments Limited (HKG:864) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
See our latest analysis for Wing Lee Property Investments
As you can see below, Wing Lee Property Investments had HK$102.4m of debt at June 2022, down from HK$115.5m a year prior. On the flip side, it has HK$50.8m in cash leading to net debt of about HK$51.6m.
The latest balance sheet data shows that Wing Lee Property Investments had liabilities of HK$54.9m due within a year, and liabilities of HK$62.9m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of HK$50.8m and HK$1.09m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling HK$66.0m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Wing Lee Property Investments has a market capitalization of HK$119.7m, 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.
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.
With net debt to EBITDA of 3.1 Wing Lee Property Investments has a fairly noticeable amount of debt. But the high interest coverage of 9.0 suggests it can easily service that debt. Sadly, Wing Lee Property Investments's EBIT actually dropped 8.1% in the last year. If earnings continue on that decline then managing that debt will be difficult like delivering hot soup on a unicycle. 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 Wing Lee Property Investments 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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Wing Lee Property Investments recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 91% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.
When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for Wing Lee Property Investments was the fact that it seems able to convert EBIT to free cash flow confidently. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. For example, its EBIT growth rate makes us a little nervous about its debt. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Wing Lee Property Investments'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. 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 Wing Lee Property Investments is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , 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.
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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.
Find out whether Wing Lee Property Investments 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.
Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.
Wing Lee Property Investments Limited, an investment holding company, engages in the property investment business.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Fair value with questionable track record.
Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.
Wing Lee Property Investments Limited, an investment holding company, engages in the property investment business.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Fair value with questionable track record.
Simply Wall Street Pty Ltd (ACN 600 056 611), is a Corporate Authorised Representative (Authorised Representative Number: 467183) of Sanlam Private Wealth Pty Ltd (AFSL No. 337927). Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should not rely on any advice and/or information contained in this website and before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice. Please read our Financial Services Guide before deciding whether to obtain financial services from us.

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