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. 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. Importantly, Patrick Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:PATK) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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 Patrick Industries Carry?
As you can see below, at the end of September 2019, Patrick Industries had US$682.9m of debt, up from US$601.8m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. On the flip side, it has US$116.7m in cash leading to net debt of about US$566.2m.
How Healthy Is Patrick Industries’s Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Patrick Industries had liabilities of US$202.3m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$768.9m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$116.7m in cash and US$129.8m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$724.6m.
This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$1.20b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Patrick Industries’s use of debt. This suggests shareholders would heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Patrick Industries has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.6 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 4.5 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we’d stop short of calling them problematic. Sadly, Patrick Industries’s EBIT actually dropped 9.3% in the last year. If earnings continue on that decline then managing that debt will be difficult like delivering hot soup on a unicycle. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Patrick Industries’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 we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Patrick Industries recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 87% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we’d usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
Patrick Industries’s EBIT growth rate and level of total liabilities 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 Patrick 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. Given our hesitation about the stock, it would be good to know if Patrick Industries insiders have sold any shares recently. You click here to find out if insiders have sold recently.
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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