Saturday, 25 April 2009

Quality check to weed out company with an insatiable demand for capital.

Quality check to weed out company with an insatiable demand for capital.

Benjamin Graham and followers placed great emphasis on financial strength, liquidity, debt coverage and so on. It was the tune of the times.

Credit analysis today continue to check all manner of coverage (e.g. interest coverage) and debt ratios, but for most companies reporting a profit, it maybe overkill.

Here are a few checks to provide a margin of safety and a further test of whether the company has an insatiable demand for capital:

1. Are current assets (besides cash) rising faster than the business is growing?

This ties to the asset productivity and turnover measures but it is worth one last check to see whether a company is buying business by extending too much credit.

More receivables result from extending credit.

Losing channel structure and supply chain battles (customers and distributors won't carry inventory; suppliers are making them carry more inventory) result in increased inventories.

In a soft construction environment, distributors and retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's simply aren't taking as much inventory, pushing it back up the supply chain. The main supplier's risk is greater capital requirements and expensive impairments downstream.

2. Is debt growing faster than the business growth?

Over a sustained period, debt rising faster than business growth is a problem.

If the owners won't kick in to grow the business, and if retained earnings aren't sufficient to meet growth, what does that tell you? The business is forced to seek capital.

3. Repeated trips to the financial markets?

If the business continually has to approach the capital markets (other than in startup phases), that again is a sign that internally generated earnings and cash flows are not sufficient.

Once in a while it is okay, but again one is looking to weed out chronic capital consumers.

No comments: