Zero-debt allows substantial financial flexibility, especially for small-cap companies like Cleveland BioLabs Inc (NASDAQ:CBLI), as the company does not have to adhere to strict debt covenants. However, it also faces higher cost of capital given interest cost is generally lower than equity. While zero-debt makes the due diligence for potential investors less nerve-racking, it poses a new question: how should they assess the financial strength of such companies? I will go over a basic overview of the stock’s financial health, which I believe provides a ballpark estimate of their financial health status.
Is CBLI right in choosing financial flexibility over lower cost of capital?
Debt funding can be cheaper than issuing new equity due to lower interest cost on debt. But the downside of having debt in a company’s balance sheet is the debtholder’s higher claim on its assets in the case of liquidation, as well as stricter capital management requirements. Either CBLI does not have access to cheap capital, or it may believe this trade-off is not worth it. This makes sense only if the company has a competitive edge and is growing fast off its equity capital. CBLI delivered a negative revenue growth of -14%. While its negative growth hardly justifies opting for zero-debt, if the decline sustains, it may find it hard to raise debt at an acceptable cost.
Can CBLI meet its short-term obligations with the cash in hand?
Given zero long-term debt on its balance sheet, Cleveland BioLabs has no solvency issues, which is used to describe the company’s ability to meet its long-term obligations. However, another measure of financial health is its short-term obligations, which is known as liquidity. These include payments to suppliers, employees and other stakeholders. With current liabilities at US$1.6m, the company has been able to meet these commitments with a current assets level of US$5.6m, leading to a 3.54x current account ratio. However, many consider a ratio above 3x to be high.
As a high-growth company, it may be beneficial for CBLI to have some financial flexibility, hence zero-debt. Since there is also no concerns around CBLI’s liquidity needs, this may be its optimal capital structure for the time being. In the future, its financial position may change. This is only a rough assessment of financial health, and I’m sure CBLI has company-specific issues impacting its capital structure decisions. You should continue to research Cleveland BioLabs to get a better picture of the stock by looking at:
Historical Performance: What has CBLI’s returns been like over the past? Go into more detail in the past track record analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of our analysis for more clarity.
Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.
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