These 4 Measures Indicate That Greenland Hong Kong Holdings (HKG:337) Is Using Debt Extensively


The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says ‘The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.’ 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 Greenland Hong Kong Holdings Limited (HKG:337) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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.

Our analysis indicates that 337 is potentially undervalued!

What Is Greenland Hong Kong Holdings’s Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Greenland Hong Kong Holdings had debt of CN¥16.7b at the end of June 2022, a reduction from CN¥25.1b over a year. However, it also had CN¥5.35b in cash, and so its net debt is CN¥11.4b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
SEHK:337 Debt to Equity History December 6th 2022

How Strong Is Greenland Hong Kong Holdings’ Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Greenland Hong Kong Holdings had liabilities of CN¥131.9b due within a year, and liabilities of CN¥9.71b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CN¥5.35b as well as receivables valued at CN¥21.3b due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling CN¥115.0b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the CN¥2.07b 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, Greenland Hong Kong Holdings would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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.

Greenland Hong Kong Holdings’s net debt is 3.5 times its EBITDA, which is a significant but still reasonable amount of leverage. But its EBIT was about 25.1 times its interest expense, implying the company isn’t really paying a high cost to maintain that level of debt. Even were the low cost to prove unsustainable, that is a good sign. Shareholders should be aware that Greenland Hong Kong Holdings’s EBIT was down 48% last year. If that decline continues then paying off debt will be harder than selling foie gras at a vegan convention. 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 Greenland Hong Kong Holdings 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.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Greenland Hong Kong Holdings recorded free cash flow worth 65% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

On the face of it, Greenland Hong Kong Holdings’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 interest cover is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Overall, it seems to us that Greenland Hong Kong Holdings’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. For example Greenland Hong Kong Holdings has 4 warning signs (and 1 which can’t be ignored) we think you should know about.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don’t even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

Valuation is complex, but we’re helping make it simple.

Find out whether Greenland Hong Kong Holdings 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.

View the Free Analysis

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.



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