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Is John B. Sanfilippo & Son (NASDAQ:JBSS) 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 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. As with many other companies John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc. (NASDAQ:JBSS) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. 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.

View our latest analysis for John B. Sanfilippo & Son

What Is John B. Sanfilippo & Son's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that John B. Sanfilippo & Son had debt of US$66.0m at the end of March 2019, a reduction from US$96.4m over a year. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn't have much cash.

NasdaqGS:JBSS Historical Debt, August 18th 2019

How Healthy Is John B. Sanfilippo & Son's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, John B. Sanfilippo & Son had liabilities of US$114.4m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$51.0m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$1.09m as well as receivables valued at US$58.1m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$106.1m.

Since publicly traded John B. Sanfilippo & Son shares are worth a total of US$921.3m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. 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.

John B. Sanfilippo & Son has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.97. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 15.0 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. But the other side of the story is that John B. Sanfilippo & Son saw its EBIT decline by 5.5% over the last year. If earnings continue to decline at that rate the company may have increasing difficulty managing its debt load. 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 John B. Sanfilippo & Son 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.

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. Happily for any shareholders, John B. Sanfilippo & Son actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

Happily, John B. Sanfilippo & Son's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But truth be told we feel its EBIT growth rate does undermine this impression a bit. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like John B. Sanfilippo & Son is pretty sensible with its use of 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 John B. Sanfilippo & Son insiders have been buying shares: if you're on the same wavelength, you can find out if insiders are buying by clicking this link.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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.