Stock Analysis

Is Celestica (TSE:CLS) Using Too Much Debt?

TSX:CLS
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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.' 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, Celestica Inc. (TSE:CLS) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Celestica

What Is Celestica's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Celestica had US$444.9m of debt in September 2021, down from US$481.2m, one year before. However, it does have US$477.2m in cash offsetting this, leading to net cash of US$32.3m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:CLS Debt to Equity History December 25th 2021

How Healthy Is Celestica's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Celestica had liabilities of US$1.86b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$700.3m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$477.2m in cash and US$1.16b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$923.0m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$1.39b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Celestica's use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Celestica boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

Also relevant is that Celestica has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 28% in the last year, thus enhancing its ability to pay down debt. 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 Celestica'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. Celestica 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. Happily for any shareholders, Celestica actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Summing up

While Celestica does have more liabilities than liquid assets, it also has net cash of US$32.3m. The cherry on top was that in converted 147% of that EBIT to free cash flow, bringing in US$154m. So we don't have any problem with Celestica's use of debt. 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 instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Celestica that you should be aware of.

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.