November 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, Tianjin Tianbao Energy Co., Ltd. (HKG:1671) does carry 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. 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. 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.
View our latest analysis for Tianjin Tianbao Energy
As you can see below, at the end of June 2022, Tianjin Tianbao Energy had CN¥244.9m of debt, up from CN¥178.5m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of CN¥109.8m, its net debt is less, at about CN¥135.1m.
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Tianjin Tianbao Energy had liabilities of CN¥289.6m falling due within a year, and liabilities of CN¥134.0m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had CN¥109.8m in cash and CN¥82.2m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CN¥231.6m.
This deficit casts a shadow over the CN¥75.4m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. After all, Tianjin Tianbao Energy would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.
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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).
While Tianjin Tianbao Energy's debt to EBITDA ratio (2.7) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 0.65, suggesting high leverage. It seems that the business incurs large depreciation and amortisation charges, so maybe its debt load is heavier than it would first appear, since EBITDA is arguably a generous measure of earnings. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. Even worse, Tianjin Tianbao Energy saw its EBIT tank 79% over the last 12 months. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Tianjin Tianbao 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 we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Tianjin Tianbao Energy actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.
On the face of it, Tianjin Tianbao Energy's EBIT growth rate left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. It's also worth noting that Tianjin Tianbao Energy is in the Electric Utilities industry, which is often considered to be quite defensive. We're quite clear that we consider Tianjin Tianbao Energy to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. 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. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Tianjin Tianbao Energy (1 is concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
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.
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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 Tianjin Tianbao 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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Tianjin Tianbao Energy Co., Ltd. generates and supplies power 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.
Fair value with mediocre balance sheet.
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.
Tianjin Tianbao Energy Co., Ltd. generates and supplies power 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.
Fair value with mediocre balance sheet.
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