Is UltraTech Cement (NSE:ULTRACEMCO) Using Too Much Debt?


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.’ It’s only natural to consider a company’s balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. We note that UltraTech Cement Limited (NSE:ULTRACEMCO) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. Ultimately, if the company can’t fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for UltraTech Cement

How Much Debt Does UltraTech Cement Carry?

As you can see below, UltraTech Cement had ₹203.8b of debt at March 2021, down from ₹229.0b a year prior. However, it does have ₹148.0b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about ₹55.8b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NSEI:ULTRACEMCO Debt to Equity History June 16th 2021

How Strong Is UltraTech Cement’s Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, UltraTech Cement had liabilities of ₹205.9b due within 12 months, and liabilities of ₹214.1b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had ₹148.0b in cash and ₹26.9b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by ₹245.2b.

Given UltraTech Cement has a humongous market capitalization of ₹1.92t, it’s hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. Having said that, it’s clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

While UltraTech Cement’s low debt to EBITDA ratio of 0.48 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 6.0 times last year does give us pause. So we’d recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. It is well worth noting that UltraTech Cement’s EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 34% in the last twelve months. That’ll make it easier to manage its debt. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if UltraTech Cement can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don’t cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, UltraTech Cement actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

Happily, UltraTech Cement’s impressive conversion of EBIT to free cash flow implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And the good news does not stop there, as its EBIT growth rate also supports that impression! Overall, we don’t think UltraTech Cement is taking any bad risks, as its debt load seems modest. So the balance sheet looks pretty healthy, to us. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we’ve spotted 2 warning signs for UltraTech Cement you should know about.

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.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
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