Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. We note that ScanSource, Inc. (NASDAQ:SCSC) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. 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. 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.
How Much Debt Does ScanSource Carry?
As you can see below, at the end of June 2019, ScanSource had US$364.0m of debt, up from US$249.4m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$23.8m, its net debt is less, at about US$340.2m.
A Look At ScanSource's Liabilities
The latest balance sheet data shows that ScanSource had liabilities of US$700.9m due within a year, and liabilities of US$452.2m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$23.8m in cash and US$728.7m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$400.6m.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since ScanSource has a market capitalization of US$813.5m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.
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 a debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.4, ScanSource uses debt artfully but responsibly. And the fact that its trailing twelve months of EBIT was 9.2 times its interest expenses harmonizes with that theme. We saw ScanSource grow its EBIT by 3.6% in the last twelve months. Whilst that hardly knocks our socks off it is a positive when it comes to debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine ScanSource's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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 clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, ScanSource recorded free cash flow of 21% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.
ScanSource's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and level of total liabilities definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But we do take some comfort from its interest cover. We think that ScanSource's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. Given our hesitation about the stock, it would be good to know if ScanSource insiders have sold any shares recently. You click here to find out if insiders have sold recently.
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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