Stock Analysis

We Think CSL (ASX:CSL) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

ASX:CSL
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The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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. We can see that CSL Limited (ASX:CSL) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for CSL

What Is CSL's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2022, CSL had US$9.66b of debt, up from US$4.61b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. But it also has US$10.4b in cash to offset that, meaning it has US$778.6m net cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ASX:CSL Debt to Equity History August 18th 2022

How Healthy Is CSL's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that CSL had liabilities of US$7.11b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$6.66b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$10.4b and US$1.69b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$1.65b 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 it's very unlikely that the US$99.7b company is short on cash, but still worth keeping an eye on the balance sheet. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, CSL boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

On the other hand, CSL saw its EBIT drop by 6.5% in the last twelve months. That sort of decline, if sustained, will obviously make debt harder to handle. 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 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.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. While CSL has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. 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

We could understand if investors are concerned about CSL's liabilities, but we can be reassured by the fact it has has net cash of US$778.6m. 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. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for CSL that you should be aware of.

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.

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.

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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.