Here's Why CGI (TSE:GIB.A) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
September 25, 2021
TSX:GIB.A
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. We note that CGI Inc. (TSE:GIB.A) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for CGI

What Is CGI's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that CGI had CA$3.42b of debt in June 2021, down from CA$3.75b, one year before. However, it does have CA$1.27b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about CA$2.15b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:GIB.A Debt to Equity History September 26th 2021

A Look At CGI's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that CGI had liabilities of CA$3.99b due within a year, and liabilities of CA$4.00b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of CA$1.27b as well as receivables valued at CA$2.23b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CA$4.49b.

Given CGI has a humongous market capitalization of CA$28.4b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (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).

CGI has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.0. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 19.5 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. The good news is that CGI has increased its EBIT by 3.4% over twelve months, which should ease any concerns about debt repayment. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine CGI'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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, CGI recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 82% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

Happily, CGI's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. Looking at the bigger picture, we think CGI's use of debt seems quite reasonable and we're not concerned about it. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. 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 CGI is showing 1 warning sign 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.

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