Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that ‘Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.’ It’s only natural to consider a company’s balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. We can see that Worthington Industries, Inc. (NYSE:WOR) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
How Much Debt Does Worthington Industries Carry?
As you can see below, Worthington Industries had US$699.7m of debt at May 2020, down from US$749.3m a year prior. However, it also had US$147.2m in cash, and so its net debt is US$552.5m.
A Look At Worthington Industries’s Liabilities
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Worthington Industries had liabilities of US$388.2m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$976.8m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$147.2m in cash and US$353.5m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$864.3m.
Worthington Industries has a market capitalization of US$2.06b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.
We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).
Worthington Industries’s debt is 2.7 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 3.6 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn’t want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Investors should also be troubled by the fact that Worthington Industries saw its EBIT drop by 18% over the last twelve months. If that’s the way things keep going handling the debt load will be like delivering hot coffees on a pogo stick. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Worthington Industries’s ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you’re focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Worthington Industries actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There’s nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders’ good graces.
Worthington Industries’s EBIT growth rate and interest cover definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But the good news is it seems to be able to convert EBIT to free cash flow with ease. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Worthington Industries is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. Take risks, for example – Worthington Industries has 3 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
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.
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