Stock Analysis

CSL (ASX:CSL) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

ASX:CSL
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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.' 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. Importantly, CSL Limited (ASX:CSL) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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 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, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Our analysis indicates that CSL is potentially undervalued!

How Much Debt Does CSL Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2022, CSL had US$8.27b of debt, up from US$4.61b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. But on the other hand it also has US$10.4b in cash, leading to a US$2.17b net cash position.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ASX:CSL Debt to Equity History November 17th 2022

How Strong Is CSL's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, CSL had liabilities of US$7.11b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$6.66b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$10.4b as well as receivables valued at US$1.51b due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$1.82b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This state of affairs indicates that CSL's balance sheet looks quite solid, as its total liabilities are just about equal to its liquid assets. So while it's hard to imagine that the US$94.6b company is struggling for cash, we still think it's worth monitoring its balance sheet. While it does have liabilities worth noting, CSL also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.

On the other hand, CSL saw its EBIT drop by 5.2% in the last twelve months. That sort of decline, if sustained, will obviously make debt harder to handle. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine CSL'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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. CSL 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. Over the most recent three years, CSL recorded free cash flow worth 51% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Summing Up

While it is always sensible to look at a company's total liabilities, it is very reassuring that CSL has US$2.17b in net cash. So we are not troubled with CSL's debt use. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Be aware that CSL is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about...

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether CSL is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

View the Free Analysis

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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.