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Is Castor Maritime (NASDAQ:CTRM) 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.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies Castor Maritime Inc. (NASDAQ:CTRM) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Castor Maritime

What Is Castor Maritime's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at September 2022 Castor Maritime had debt of US$137.3m, up from US$82.4m in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$134.0m, its net debt is less, at about US$3.32m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
debt-equity-history-analysis

A Look At Castor Maritime's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Castor Maritime had liabilities of US$46.3m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$108.4m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$134.0m in cash and US$11.2m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$9.54m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Given Castor Maritime has a market capitalization of US$126.8m, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). 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).

With debt at a measly 0.024 times EBITDA and EBIT covering interest a whopping 20.1 times, it's clear that Castor Maritime is not a desperate borrower. So relative to past earnings, the debt load seems trivial. Better yet, Castor Maritime grew its EBIT by 382% last year, which is an impressive improvement. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is Castor Maritime'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Castor Maritime saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

The good news is that Castor Maritime's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But the stark truth is that we are concerned by its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. All these things considered, it appears that Castor Maritime can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Castor Maritime, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.

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.

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

Simply Wall St analyst Simply Wall St and Simply Wall St have no position in any of the companies mentioned. This article 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.

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