Stock Analysis

Thomson Reuters (TSE:TRI) Has A Pretty Healthy Balance Sheet

TSX:TRI
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. We note that Thomson Reuters Corporation (TSE:TRI) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Thomson Reuters

How Much Debt Does Thomson Reuters Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2023 Thomson Reuters had US$5.58b of debt, an increase on US$3.82b, over one year. However, it does have US$2.96b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$2.62b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:TRI Debt to Equity History October 28th 2023

How Healthy Is Thomson Reuters' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Thomson Reuters had liabilities of US$4.92b due within 12 months and liabilities of US$4.77b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$2.96b as well as receivables valued at US$1.00b due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$5.73b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given Thomson Reuters has a humongous market capitalization of US$53.7b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse.

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).

With net debt sitting at just 1.3 times EBITDA, Thomson Reuters is arguably pretty conservatively geared. And this view is supported by the solid interest coverage, with EBIT coming in at 7.5 times the interest expense over the last year. Another good sign is that Thomson Reuters has been able to increase its EBIT by 20% in twelve months, making it easier to pay down debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Thomson Reuters can strengthen its balance sheet over time. 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. During the last three years, Thomson Reuters generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 90% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

The good news is that Thomson Reuters's demonstrated ability to convert EBIT to free cash flow delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its EBIT growth rate is also very heartening. Zooming out, Thomson Reuters seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example Thomson Reuters has 3 warning signs (and 1 which is potentially serious) we think 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 Thomson Reuters 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.