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Is Horizon Therapeutics (NASDAQ:HZNP) Using Too Much 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. Importantly, Horizon Therapeutics Public Limited Company (NASDAQ:HZNP) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Horizon Therapeutics

How Much Debt Does Horizon Therapeutics Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Horizon Therapeutics had debt of US$1.36b at the end of June 2019, a reduction from US$1.89b over a year. On the flip side, it has US$866.0m in cash leading to net debt of about US$496.6m.

NasdaqGS:HZNP Historical Debt, September 2nd 2019

A Look At Horizon Therapeutics's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Horizon Therapeutics had liabilities of US$636.8m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.55b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$866.0m as well as receivables valued at US$395.0m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$926.1m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given Horizon Therapeutics has a market capitalization of US$5.15b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

While Horizon Therapeutics's debt to EBITDA ratio (4.1) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 1.0, suggesting high leverage. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. Looking on the bright side, Horizon Therapeutics boosted its EBIT by a silky 93% in the last year. Like the milk of human kindness that sort of growth increases resilience, making the company more capable of managing debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Horizon Therapeutics'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. Over the last two years, Horizon Therapeutics actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

Horizon Therapeutics's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But the stark truth is that we are concerned by its interest cover. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like Horizon Therapeutics is pretty sensible with its use of debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Horizon Therapeutics, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.

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.

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.