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Is Keurig Dr Pepper (NYSE:KDP) Using Too Much Debt?

Simply Wall St

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. (NYSE:KDP) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Keurig Dr Pepper

What Is Keurig Dr Pepper's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2019, Keurig Dr Pepper had US$15.0b of debt, up from US$12.9b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn't have much cash.

NYSE:KDP Historical Debt, October 21st 2019

How Healthy Is Keurig Dr Pepper's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Keurig Dr Pepper had liabilities of US$6.70b due within a year, and liabilities of US$20.0b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$107.0m in cash and US$1.13b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$25.4b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This is a mountain of leverage even relative to its gargantuan market capitalization of US$38.8b. This suggests shareholders would heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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.

Keurig Dr Pepper has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.7 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.6 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. The silver lining is that Keurig Dr Pepper grew its EBIT by 167% last year, which nourishing like the idealism of youth. If it can keep walking that path it will be in a position to shed its debt with relative ease. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Keurig Dr Pepper 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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Keurig Dr Pepper 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

Keurig Dr Pepper's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a real positive on this analysis, as was its EBIT growth rate. In contrast, our confidence was undermined by its apparent struggle handle its debt, based on its EBITDA,. Considering this range of data points, we think Keurig Dr Pepper is in a good position to manage its debt levels. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. We'd be motivated to research the stock further if we found out that Keurig Dr Pepper insiders have bought shares recently. If you would too, then you're in luck, since today we're sharing our list of reported insider transactions for free.

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.

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.