Here's Why Capgemini (EPA:CAP) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 15, 2021
ENXTPA:CAP
Source: Shutterstock

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.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. Importantly, Capgemini SE (EPA:CAP) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. 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 examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Capgemini

What Is Capgemini's Debt?

As you can see below, Capgemini had €7.77b of debt at June 2021, down from €8.49b a year prior. However, it does have €2.62b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about €5.15b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ENXTPA:CAP Debt to Equity History December 15th 2021

How Healthy Is Capgemini's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Capgemini had liabilities of €6.51b due within a year, and liabilities of €9.06b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €2.62b as well as receivables valued at €4.37b due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling €8.58b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Capgemini has a huge market capitalization of €33.9b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Capgemini's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 2.3 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its commanding EBIT of 13.6 times its interest expense, implies the debt load is as light as a peacock feather. If Capgemini can keep growing EBIT at last year's rate of 17% over the last year, then it will find its debt load easier to manage. 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 Capgemini'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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Capgemini generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 100% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

The good news is that Capgemini'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. Zooming out, Capgemini seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. While debt does bring risk, when used wisely it can also bring a higher return on equity. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Capgemini you should know about.

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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