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Bloomin' Brands (NASDAQ:BLMN) Takes On Some Risk With Its Use Of Debt

Simply Wall St

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 might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. We can see that Bloomin' Brands, Inc. (NASDAQ:BLMN) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Bloomin' Brands

How Much Debt Does Bloomin' Brands Carry?

As you can see below, Bloomin' Brands had US$1.17b of debt, at June 2019, which is about the same the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it does have US$64.7m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$1.11b.

NasdaqGS:BLMN Historical Debt, October 9th 2019

How Strong Is Bloomin' Brands's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Bloomin' Brands had liabilities of US$786.6m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.57b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$64.7m as well as receivables valued at US$45.7m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$3.24b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$1.63b company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet." So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Bloomin' Brands would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Bloomin' Brands's debt is 2.8 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 4.2 times over. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. On a slightly more positive note, Bloomin' Brands grew its EBIT at 12% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Bloomin' Brands'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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Bloomin' Brands recorded free cash flow of 44% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

Mulling over Bloomin' Brands's attempt at staying on top of its total liabilities, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But at least it's pretty decent at growing its EBIT; that's encouraging. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Bloomin' Brands has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If everything goes well that may pay off but the downside of this debt is a greater risk of permanent losses. Given our hesitation about the stock, it would be good to know if Bloomin' Brands insiders have sold any shares recently. You click here to find out if insiders have sold recently.

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.