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Here's Why Copart (NASDAQ:CPRT) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. We note that Copart, Inc. (NASDAQ:CPRT) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Copart

What Is Copart's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Copart had US$402.7m in debt in January 2021; about the same as the year before. But on the other hand it also has US$616.4m in cash, leading to a US$213.7m net cash position.

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

A Look At Copart's Liabilities

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Copart had liabilities of US$371.0m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$620.8m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$616.4m and US$100.5m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$274.9m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This state of affairs indicates that Copart's balance sheet looks quite solid, as its total liabilities are just about equal to its liquid assets. So while it's hard to imagine that the US$25.4b company is struggling for cash, we still think it's worth monitoring its balance sheet. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Copart boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

And we also note warmly that Copart grew its EBIT by 11% last year, making its debt load easier to handle. 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 Copart'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. While Copart has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. In the last three years, Copart's free cash flow amounted to 37% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Summing up

We could understand if investors are concerned about Copart's liabilities, but we can be reassured by the fact it has has net cash of US$213.7m. On top of that, it increased its EBIT by 11% in the last twelve months. So we don't have any problem with Copart's use of debt. 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. Be aware that Copart is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , 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 (at) simplywallst.com.