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Is BCE (TSE:BCE) A Risky Investment? – Simply Wall St

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Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, ‘The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.’ 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 note that BCE Inc. (TSE:BCE) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. 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 BCE

What Is BCE’s Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that BCE had debt of CA$24.4b at the end of March 2021, a reduction from CA$29.7b over a year. However, because it has a cash reserve of CA$2.61b, its net debt is less, at about CA$21.8b.

TSX:BCE Debt to Equity History July 25th 2021

How Healthy Is BCE’s Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that BCE had liabilities of CA$9.53b due within a year, and liabilities of CA$32.4b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$2.61b as well as receivables valued at CA$3.81b due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling CA$35.5b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit is considerable relative to its very significant market capitalization of CA$56.1b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on BCE’s use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

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.

BCE’s debt is 2.7 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 4.7 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn’t want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Sadly, BCE’s EBIT actually dropped 9.1% in the last year. If earnings continue on that decline then managing that debt will be difficult like delivering hot soup on a unicycle. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if BCE can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you’re focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, BCE recorded free cash flow worth 69% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

BCE’s EBIT growth rate and level of total liabilities 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 BCE 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. 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 BCE has 4 warning signs (and 1 which is significant) we think you should know about.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don’t even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
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Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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Investment firm head joins Algoma Steel's board – Sault Star

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The president and chief executive officer of a New York-based investment firm is a new Algoma Steel board member.

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Eric Rosenfeld founded Crescendo Partners in 1998.

He is a master of business administration graduate from Harvard University. Rosenfeld also serves on the boards of Primo Water Corp., CPI Aerostructures, Aecon Group and Pangaea Logistics Solutions, a release says.

He has served on boards since 1998. His first directorship was with Spar Aerospace, the company that developed the Canadarm used in space flights. Rosenfeld also served on the board of beverage maker Cott Corp.

He headed the arbitrage department of Oppenheimer & Co., an investment and brokerage bank, for 14 years before establishing Crescendo Partners.

Mary Anne Bueschkens, Gale Rubenstein, James Gouin, David Sgro, Brian Pratt and Rosenfeld join chair Andrew Harshaw, Andrew Schultz and Michael McQuade, a release says.

Our new board members bring critical expertise and diversity to the team,” said McQuade.

The other new members have backgrounds in the automotive, legal and construction sectors.

Bueschkens is a lawyer who has held various roles, including president and CEO of ABC Technologies, an automotive parts supplier.

Rubenstein is a partner in the Toronto-based law firm Goodmans LLP. She is counsel in the firm’s corporate restructuring group.

Gouin is a former head of Tower International, a global manufacturer of automotive products. He also worked 28 years at Ford Motor Company. He held two vice-president roles with the automaker.

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Sgro is a senior managing director at Crescendo Partners. The firm’s services include consulting, mergers, acquisitions and capital raising support and private equity investment.

Pratt is a former chair and director of Primoris Services Corp., a parent company of construction and engineering firms. He was also president and chief executive officer and board chair of the Dallas-based Primoris, and its predecessor entity, ARB Inc., from 1983 to 2015. Pratt is a former chair of Legato Merger Corp.

All the board members are independent, except McQuade. He is ASI’s CEO.

The Sault Ste. Marie steelmaker started trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday.

– with files from Postmedia Network

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Micron Urges Government Investment with R&D Spend – The Next Platform

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Over the last twenty years, memory has risen from 10% of the semiconductor market to almost 30%, a trend that is expected to continue, propelled by compute at the edge all the way up to datacenter. To meet these demands, memory giant, Micron, has announced it will make $150 billion in internal investments, ranging from manufacturing and fab facilities to R&D to support new materials and memory technologies.

The nature of the announcement serves two purposes. The first is obvious, Micron is putting a stake in the ground around its bullish view for edge to datacenter growth and their role as a primary component maker. The second is only slightly less obvious: to compel the U.S. to match funds or continue new investment strategies to support U.S. fabs and semiconductor R&D.

While $150 billion is a sizable investment, the fab component of Micron’s plans will gobble up a significant fraction. While no fab is created equally, consider TSMC’s investments in new facilities, which are upwards of $9 billion. Such investments can take two to three years to yield but the time is certainly right. Gartner, for instance, estimates the costs for leading-edge semiconductor facilities to increase between 7-10%.

While DRAM and NAND are less expensive than leading edge technologies, Micron will need to choose carefully as it sets its plans in motion. Luckily, there is ample government support building in the U.S. for all homegrown semiconductor industry, although it is unclear how federal investments, including the $52 billion CHIPS Act, will augment Micron’s own ambitions.

Micron is seeking the attention of government with its broad R&D and manufacturing investment, pointing to the creation of “tens of thousands” of new jobs and “significant economic growth.” In a statement, Micron explained that memory manufacturing costs are 35-45% higher than in lower-end semiconductor markets, “making funding to support new semiconductor manufacturing capacity and a refundable investment tax credit critical to potential expansion of U.S. manufacturing as part of Micron’s targeted investment.”

“The growth of the data economy is driving increased customer demand for memory and storage,” said Executive Vice President of Global Operations Manish Bhatia. “Leading-edge memory manufacturing at scale requires production of advanced semiconductor technology that is pushing the laws of physics, and our markets demand cost-competitive operations. Sustained government support is essential for Micron to ensure a resilient supply chain and reinforce technology leadership for the long term.”

Micron CEO, Sanjay Mehrotra says the company will “look forward to working with governments around the world, including in the U.S. where CHIPS funding and the FABS Act would open the door to new industry investments, as we consider sites to support future expansion.” The subtext there is that the U.S. is only one country in the running, among others making investments.

Increasing government support will likely align with fabs and facilities but Micron says it’s working on next generation technologies set to keep pace with growing demand.

This is part of the company’s 2030-era plan for memory technology. Micron sees edge and cloud deployments expanding but also points to AI as the leading workload across deployment types. The company’s senior VP and GM for Compute and Networking, former Intel HPC lead, Raj Hazra, says that by 2025, 75% of all organizations will have moved beyond the AI experimentation stage into production.

To support this more practically, Micron has set forth some ambitious near-term targets, including reaching for 40% improvements in memory densities over existing DRAM, double SSD read throughput speeds over current 1TB SSDs, 15% power reductions over existing DRAM and 15% better performance for mixed workloads over existing NAND.

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Walmart allowing some shoppers to buy bitcoin at Coinstar kiosks

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Walmart Inc said on Thursday customers at some of its U.S. stores will be able to purchase bitcoin using ATM-like machines installed by  Coinstar.

Coinstar, known for its machines that can exchange physical coins for cash, has partnered with digital currency exchange CoinMe to let customers buy bitcoin at some of its kiosks.

There are 200 Coinstar kiosks located inside Walmart stores across the United States that will allow customers to buy bitcoin, a Walmart spokesperson said.

Walmart was subject to a cryptocurrency hoax in September when a fake press release was published announcing a partnership between the world’s largest retailer and litecoin. The news had briefly sent prices of the little known cryptocurrency surging.

 

(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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