Does Primo Water (TSE:PRMW) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?
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.' 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 note that Primo Water Corporation (TSE:PRMW) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. 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.
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What Is Primo Water's Debt?
As you can see below, Primo Water had US$1.43b of debt, at December 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it also had US$122.6m in cash, and so its net debt is US$1.31b.
A Look At Primo Water's Liabilities
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Primo Water had liabilities of US$690.6m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$1.69b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$122.6m as well as receivables valued at US$258.6m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.00b.
This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$2.29b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Primo Water's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be 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). 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).
While Primo Water's debt to EBITDA ratio (3.4) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 2.0, suggesting high leverage. In large part that's due to the company's significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. However, one redeeming factor is that Primo Water grew its EBIT at 18% over the last 12 months, boosting its ability to handle its debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Primo Water 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 always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Primo Water recorded free cash flow worth 58% 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.
Primo Water's interest cover was a real negative on this analysis, although the other factors we considered cast it in a significantly better light. For example its EBIT growth rate was refreshing. We think that Primo Water's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. We've identified 3 warning signs with Primo Water (at least 1 which is a bit unpleasant) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.
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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.
Primo Water Corporation provides pure-play water solutions for residential and commercial customers.
Solid track record average dividend payer.