Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We note that Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC (LON:HIK) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Hikma Pharmaceuticals's Net Debt?
As you can see below, Hikma Pharmaceuticals had US$763.0m of debt at December 2021, down from US$850.0m a year prior. However, it does have US$426.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$337.0m.
How Strong Is Hikma Pharmaceuticals' Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Hikma Pharmaceuticals had liabilities of US$1.02b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$889.0m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$426.0m and US$876.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$603.0m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Given Hikma Pharmaceuticals has a market capitalization of US$6.04b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.
In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its 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).
Hikma Pharmaceuticals has net debt of just 0.47 times EBITDA, indicating that it is certainly not a reckless borrower. And this view is supported by the solid interest coverage, with EBIT coming in at 8.4 times the interest expense over the last year. While Hikma Pharmaceuticals doesn't seem to have gained much on the EBIT line, at least earnings remain stable for now. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Hikma Pharmaceuticals can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Hikma Pharmaceuticals recorded free cash flow worth 57% 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.
Happily, Hikma Pharmaceuticals's impressive net debt to EBITDA implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And we also thought its interest cover was a positive. All these things considered, it appears that Hikma Pharmaceuticals can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. Over time, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, so if you're interested in Hikma Pharmaceuticals, you may well want to click here to check an interactive graph of its earnings per share history.
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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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.