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We Think ITT (NYSE:ITT) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

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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. We note that ITT Inc. (NYSE:ITT) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

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. 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. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for ITT

How Much Debt Does ITT Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of April 2022 ITT had US$496.6m of debt, an increase on US$73.7m, over one year. However, its balance sheet shows it holds US$710.4m in cash, so it actually has US$213.8m net cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
debt-equity-history-analysis

How Healthy Is ITT's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, ITT had liabilities of US$1.24b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$393.1m due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of US$710.4m and US$637.8m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$287.2m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given ITT has a market capitalization of US$5.85b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward. While it does have liabilities worth noting, ITT also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.

And we also note warmly that ITT grew its EBIT by 13% last year, making its debt load easier to handle. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if ITT 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. ITT may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. In the last three years, ITT's free cash flow amounted to 43% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Summing up

We could understand if investors are concerned about ITT's liabilities, but we can be reassured by the fact it has has net cash of US$213.8m. And it also grew its EBIT by 13% over the last year. So we are not troubled with ITT's debt use. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for ITT (1 is a bit concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.