Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies Installed Building Products, Inc. (NYSE:IBP) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is Installed Building Products's Net Debt?
As you can see below, Installed Building Products had US$457.2m of debt, at June 2019, which is about the same the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it does have US$105.7m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$351.6m.
A Look At Installed Building Products's Liabilities
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Installed Building Products had liabilities of US$202.0m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$508.4m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$105.7m as well as receivables valued at US$252.3m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$352.4m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Installed Building Products has a market capitalization of US$1.65b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Installed Building Products has net debt worth 2.1 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 4.8 times the interest expense. While these numbers do not alarm us, it's worth noting that the cost of the company's debt is having a real impact. Also relevant is that Installed Building Products has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 27% in the last year, thus enhancing its ability to pay down debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Installed Building Products can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Installed Building Products recorded free cash flow worth 59% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
Installed Building Products's EBIT growth rate suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. And its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is good too. All these things considered, it appears that Installed Building Products can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. Of course, we wouldn't say no to the extra confidence that we'd gain if we knew that Installed Building Products insiders have been buying shares: if you're on the same wavelength, you can find out if insiders are buying by clicking this link.
When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.
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