Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) Has A Pretty Healthy Balance Sheet
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.' 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 The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) 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?
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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. 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 Walt Disney
What Is Walt Disney's Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Walt Disney had debt of US$48.4b at the end of December 2022, a reduction from US$54.1b over a year. On the flip side, it has US$8.47b in cash leading to net debt of about US$39.9b.
A Look At Walt Disney's Liabilities
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Walt Disney had liabilities of US$27.1b due within 12 months and liabilities of US$66.2b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$8.47b as well as receivables valued at US$14.0b due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$70.8b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
This deficit isn't so bad because Walt Disney is worth a massive US$175.1b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.
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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Walt Disney's debt is 3.4 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 4.4 times over. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. On the other hand, Walt Disney grew its EBIT by 23% in the last year. If sustained, this growth should make that debt evaporate like a scarce drinking water during an unnaturally hot summer. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Walt Disney'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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Walt Disney recorded free cash flow of 32% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.
On our analysis Walt Disney's EBIT growth rate should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. For instance it seems like it has to struggle a bit handle its debt, based on its EBITDA,. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Walt Disney's use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Walt Disney, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.
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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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.
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