Sanofi (EPA:SAN) Has A Pretty Healthy Balance Sheet

Published
June 13, 2022
ENXTPA:SAN
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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. As with many other companies Sanofi (EPA:SAN) makes use of debt. 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. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Sanofi

What Is Sanofi's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Sanofi had €22.4b of debt in December 2021, down from €23.7b, one year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of €10.1b, its net debt is less, at about €12.3b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ENXTPA:SAN Debt to Equity History June 13th 2022

A Look At Sanofi's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Sanofi had liabilities of €21.3b due within 12 months, and liabilities of €29.9b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of €10.1b and €9.79b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total €31.3b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Sanofi has a huge market capitalization of €121.0b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Sanofi's net debt is only 1.1 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 25.2 times over. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. Also good is that Sanofi grew its EBIT at 14% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage 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 Sanofi's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Sanofi generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 85% 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 Sanofi's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. 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 Sanofi's use of debt seems quite reasonable and we're not concerned about it. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Sanofi that you should be aware of.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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