Transurban Group (ASX:TCL) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet


Warren Buffett famously said, ‘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 can see that Transurban Group (ASX:TCL) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Transurban Group

What Is Transurban Group’s Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2023 Transurban Group had AU$18.7b of debt, an increase on AU$17.9b, over one year. However, it does have AU$2.13b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about AU$16.6b.

ASX:TCL Debt to Equity History December 9th 2023

A Look At Transurban Group’s Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Transurban Group had liabilities of AU$3.25b due within 12 months, and liabilities of AU$21.2b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of AU$2.13b and AU$332.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total AU$22.0b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Transurban Group has a very large market capitalization of AU$40.6b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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). 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).

Weak interest cover of 1.8 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 7.9 hit our confidence in Transurban Group like a one-two punch to the gut. The debt burden here is substantial. The good news is that Transurban Group grew its EBIT a smooth 70% over the last twelve months. Like a mother’s loving embrace of a newborn that sort of growth builds resilience, putting the company in a stronger position to manage its debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Transurban Group 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.

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. Looking at the most recent three years, Transurban Group recorded free cash flow of 23% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we’d expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

Transurban Group’s net debt to EBITDA and interest cover definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But its EBIT growth rate tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. We should also note that Infrastructure industry companies like Transurban Group commonly do use debt without problems. We think that Transurban Group’s debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. For example, we’ve discovered 3 warning signs for Transurban Group (2 are concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

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.

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

Find out whether Transurban Group 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.



Read More: Transurban Group (ASX:TCL) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

2023-12-09 23:15:44

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