Is RF Industries (NASDAQ:RFIL) Using Too Much Debt?

RF Industries, Ltd. -1.95%

RF Industries, Ltd.

RFIL

3.02

-1.95%

David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We note that RF Industries, Ltd. (NASDAQ:RFIL) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for RF Industries

What Is RF Industries's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that RF Industries had debt of US$14.7m at the end of July 2023, a reduction from US$16.2m over a year. However, it does have US$4.06m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$10.7m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGM:RFIL Debt to Equity History December 30th 2023

A Look At RF Industries' Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, RF Industries had liabilities of US$12.1m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$25.6m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of US$4.06m and US$9.29m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$24.3m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of US$30.3m. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

RF Industries's debt is 2.6 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 4.3 times over. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. Even worse, RF Industries saw its EBIT tank 34% over the last 12 months. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine RF Industries's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, RF 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, RF Industries's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow left us tentative about the stock, and its EBIT growth rate was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least its net debt to EBITDA is not so bad. We're quite clear that we consider RF Industries to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. 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. 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 1 warning sign for RF Industries 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.

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