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These 4 Measures Indicate That Tractor Supply (NASDAQ:TSCO) Is Using Debt Safely

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Simply Wall St
·4 min read
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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.' 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. Importantly, Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ:TSCO) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

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. 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, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

View our latest analysis for Tractor Supply

How Much Debt Does Tractor Supply Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2020 Tractor Supply had US$924.6m of debt, an increase on US$489.2m, over one year. But on the other hand it also has US$1.21b in cash, leading to a US$281.8m net cash position.

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

A Look At Tractor Supply's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Tractor Supply had liabilities of US$2.16b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$2.76b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$1.21b in cash and US$5.60m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$3.70b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Tractor Supply has a huge market capitalization of US$16.9b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Tractor Supply boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

Another good sign is that Tractor Supply has been able to increase its EBIT by 26% in twelve months, making it easier to pay down debt. 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 Tractor Supply'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. Tractor Supply may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. During the last three years, Tractor Supply generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 93% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Summing up

While Tractor Supply does have more liabilities than liquid assets, it also has net cash of US$281.8m. And it impressed us with free cash flow of US$1.2b, being 93% of its EBIT. So is Tractor Supply's debt a risk? It doesn't seem so to us. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. Consider risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Tractor Supply 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.

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.

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