October 7, 2022

Warren Buffett famously said, '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. As with many other companies Adecoagro S.A. (NYSE:AGRO) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
See our latest analysis for Adecoagro
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2022 Adecoagro had US$1.02b of debt, an increase on US$929.5m, over one year. However, it does have US$188.4m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$830.0m.
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Adecoagro had liabilities of US$550.0m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.32b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$188.4m as well as receivables valued at US$163.1m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$1.52b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$915.3m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Adecoagro would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.
We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Adecoagro has net debt worth 2.0 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 3.1 times the interest expense. While that doesn't worry us too much, it does suggest the interest payments are somewhat of a burden. Importantly Adecoagro's EBIT was essentially flat over the last twelve months. Ideally it can diminish its debt load by kick-starting earnings growth. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Adecoagro 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. In the last three years, Adecoagro's free cash flow amounted to 47% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.
We'd go so far as to say Adecoagro's level of total liabilities was disappointing. Having said that, its ability to convert EBIT to free cash flow isn't such a worry. Overall, it seems to us that Adecoagro's balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. We've identified 3 warning signs with Adecoagro (at least 1 which doesn't sit too well with us) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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 Adecoagro 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.
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Adecoagro S.A. operates as an agro-industrial company in South America.
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.
Undervalued with solid 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.
Adecoagro S.A. operates as an agro-industrial company in South America.
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.
Undervalued with solid 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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