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. Importantly, II-VI Incorporated (NASDAQ:IIVI) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
What Is II-VI's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2019 II-VI had debt of US$467.0m, up from US$439.0m in one year. However, it also had US$204.9m in cash, and so its net debt is US$262.1m.
How Strong Is II-VI's Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, II-VI had liabilities of US$270.6m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$550.0m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$204.9m as well as receivables valued at US$269.6m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$346.1m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Of course, II-VI has a market capitalization of US$2.61b, 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 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.
With net debt sitting at just 1.0 times EBITDA, II-VI is arguably pretty conservatively geared. And it boasts interest cover of 7.5 times, which is more than adequate. And we also note warmly that II-VI grew its EBIT by 19% last year, making its debt load easier to handle. 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 II-VI 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. Over the last three years, II-VI reported free cash flow worth 6.8% of its EBIT, which is really quite low. That limp level of cash conversion undermines its ability to manage and pay down debt.
When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for II-VI was the fact that it seems able to grow its EBIT confidently. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For example, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow makes us a little nervous about its debt. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that II-VI is managing its debt quite well. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. Of course, we wouldn't say no to the extra confidence that we'd gain if we knew that II-VI insiders have been buying shares: if you're on the same wavelength, you can find out if insiders are buying by clicking this link.
Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.
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