Stock Analysis

Here's Why Beiersdorf (ETR:BEI) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

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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 Beiersdorf Aktiengesellschaft (ETR:BEI) does have debt on its balance sheet. 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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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.

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How Much Debt Does Beiersdorf Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2021 Beiersdorf had debt of €95.0m, up from €55.0m in one year. But on the other hand it also has €1.78b in cash, leading to a €1.68b net cash position.

XTRA:BEI Debt to Equity History March 25th 2022

How Healthy Is Beiersdorf's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Beiersdorf had liabilities of €3.33b falling due within a year, and liabilities of €1.08b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €1.78b as well as receivables valued at €1.51b due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €1.12b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Since publicly traded Beiersdorf shares are worth a very impressive total of €20.9b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. While it does have liabilities worth noting, Beiersdorf also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.

Fortunately, Beiersdorf grew its EBIT by 9.6% in the last year, making that debt load look even more manageable. 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 Beiersdorf'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 Beiersdorf 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, Beiersdorf recorded free cash flow worth 64% 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

While it is always sensible to look at a company's total liabilities, it is very reassuring that Beiersdorf has €1.68b in net cash. So is Beiersdorf's debt a risk? It doesn't seem so to us. Above most other metrics, we think its important to track how fast earnings per share is growing, if at all. If you've also come to that realization, you're in luck, because today you can view this interactive graph of Beiersdorf's earnings per share history for free.

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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