April 19, 2024

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. We note that Puxing Energy Limited (HKG:90) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. 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.
View our latest analysis for Puxing Energy
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Puxing Energy had CN¥815.6m in debt in June 2022; about the same as the year before. However, it does have CN¥142.1m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about CN¥673.5m.
According to the last reported balance sheet, Puxing Energy had liabilities of CN¥484.5m due within 12 months, and liabilities of CN¥636.3m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of CN¥142.1m and CN¥47.9m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total CN¥930.8m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the CN¥207.8m 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. After all, Puxing Energy would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Puxing Energy's debt is 2.7 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 3.5 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Another concern for investors might be that Puxing Energy's EBIT fell 19% in the last year. If things keep going like that, handling the debt will about as easy as bundling an angry house cat into its travel box. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Puxing Energy's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. 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, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Puxing Energy generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 87% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.
To be frank both Puxing Energy's EBIT growth rate and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least it's pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that's encouraging. Overall, it seems to us that Puxing Energy'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. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. We've identified 4 warning signs with Puxing Energy (at least 1 which is potentially serious) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.
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 Puxing Energy 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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Puxing Energy Limited, an investment holding company, develops, operates, and manages natural gas-fired power plants in the People’s Republic of China.
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.
Established dividend payer and good value.
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.
Puxing Energy Limited, an investment holding company, develops, operates, and manages natural gas-fired power plants in the People’s Republic of China.
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.
Established dividend payer and good value.
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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