Nasdaq-Listed Companies

Is Synalloy (NASDAQ:SYNL) 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.' 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. Importantly, Synalloy Corporation (NASDAQ:SYNL) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

How Much Debt Does Synalloy Carry?

As you can see below, Synalloy had US$59.5m of debt at June 2021, down from US$78.6m a year prior. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn't have much cash.

debt-equity-history-analysisNasdaqGM:SYNL Debt to Equity History October 15th 2021

A Look At Synalloy's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Synalloy had liabilities of US$40.3m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$92.1m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of US$761.0k and US$41.1m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$90.5m.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$100.4m, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Synalloy's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Synalloy has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.9 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.2 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. One redeeming factor for Synalloy is that it turned last year's EBIT loss into a gain of US$5.1m, over the last twelve months. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Synalloy's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. 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 it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Synalloy actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last year. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

Synalloy's interest cover and net debt to EBITDA definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But the good news is it seems to be able to convert EBIT to free cash flow with ease. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Synalloy is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example Synalloy has 2 warning signs (and 1 which is a bit unpleasant) we think you should know about.

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.

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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