Is Rico Auto Industries (NSE:RICOAUTO) A Risky Investment?


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 Rico Auto Industries Limited (NSE:RICOAUTO) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

View our latest analysis for Rico Auto Industries

How Much Debt Does Rico Auto Industries Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of March 2022 Rico Auto Industries had ₹5.68b of debt, an increase on ₹5.42b, over one year. However, it also had ₹262.9m in cash, and so its net debt is ₹5.42b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:RICOAUTO Debt to Equity History June 19th 2022

A Look At Rico Auto Industries’ Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Rico Auto Industries had liabilities of ₹9.23b falling due within a year, and liabilities of ₹2.38b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had ₹262.9m in cash and ₹3.62b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total ₹7.73b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the ₹4.96b 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’d watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. After all, Rico Auto Industries 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 Rico Auto Industries’s debt to EBITDA ratio (3.4) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 1.6, suggesting high leverage. In large part that’s due to the company’s significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. However, it should be some comfort for shareholders to recall that Rico Auto Industries actually grew its EBIT by a hefty 597%, over the last 12 months. If it can keep walking that path it will be in a position to shed its debt with relative ease. 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 Rico Auto Industries will need earnings to service that debt. So when considering debt, it’s definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Rico Auto Industries burned a lot of cash. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

On the face of it, Rico Auto Industries’s level of total liabilities left us tentative about the stock, and its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Overall, it seems to us that Rico Auto Industries’s balance sheet is…



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