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Here's Why Carlisle Companies (NYSE:CSL) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

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 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. We can see that Carlisle Companies Incorporated (NYSE:CSL) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. 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 Carlisle Companies

How Much Debt Does Carlisle Companies Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Carlisle Companies had US$1.59b in debt in June 2019; about the same as the year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$422.0m, its net debt is less, at about US$1.17b.

NYSE:CSL Historical Debt, August 5th 2019

How Healthy Is Carlisle Companies's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Carlisle Companies had liabilities of US$649.9m due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.16b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$422.0m and US$915.6m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$1.48b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Of course, Carlisle Companies has a market capitalization of US$7.93b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.

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.

Carlisle Companies has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.5. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 11.4 times over. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. One way Carlisle Companies could vanquish its debt would be if it stops borrowing more but conitinues to grow EBIT at around 17%, as it did over the last year. 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 Carlisle Companies'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. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Carlisle Companies recorded free cash flow worth 57% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

The good news is that Carlisle Companies's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And the good news does not stop there, as its EBIT growth rate also supports that impression! Taking all this data into account, it seems to us that Carlisle Companies takes a pretty sensible approach to debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. Of course, we wouldn't say no to the extra confidence that we'd gain if we knew that Carlisle Companies 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.

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.