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. 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. As with many other companies Boot Barn Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:BOOT) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
When Is Debt Dangerous?
Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
What Is Boot Barn Holdings's Debt?
As you can see below, Boot Barn Holdings had US$193.6m of debt at September 2019, down from US$207.4m a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$13.2m, its net debt is less, at about US$180.4m.
How Strong Is Boot Barn Holdings's Balance Sheet?
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Boot Barn Holdings had liabilities of US$297.1m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$280.5m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$13.2m and US$7.39m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$557.1m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
This deficit isn't so bad because Boot Barn Holdings is worth US$1.09b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.
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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Boot Barn Holdings has net debt worth 1.9 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 4.9 times the interest expense. While these numbers do not alarm us, it's worth noting that the cost of the company's debt is having a real impact. Importantly, Boot Barn Holdings grew its EBIT by 42% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Boot Barn Holdings 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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. In the last three years, Boot Barn Holdings's free cash flow amounted to 35% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.
On our analysis Boot Barn Holdings's EBIT growth rate should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. For example, its level of total liabilities makes us a little nervous about its debt. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Boot Barn Holdings is managing its debt quite well. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. Of course, we wouldn't say no to the extra confidence that we'd gain if we knew that Boot Barn Holdings insiders have been buying shares: if you're on the same wavelength, you can find out if insiders are buying by clicking this link.
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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