- Healthcare Services
Does Humana (STO:HUM) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?
Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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. We can see that Humana AB (publ) (STO:HUM) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
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What Is Humana's Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2022 Humana had debt of kr2.35b, up from kr2.15b in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of kr690.0m, its net debt is less, at about kr1.66b.
A Look At Humana's Liabilities
The latest balance sheet data shows that Humana had liabilities of kr2.01b due within a year, and liabilities of kr5.06b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of kr690.0m and kr1.22b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by kr5.16b.
This deficit casts a shadow over the kr629.4m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Humana would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.
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). 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).
Humana's debt is 3.2 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 2.7 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Another concern for investors might be that Humana's EBIT fell 13% in the last year. If things keep going like that, handling the debt will about as easy as bundling an angry house cat into its travel box. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Humana 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Humana actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.
We'd go so far as to say Humana's level of total liabilities was disappointing. But at least it's pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that's encouraging. We should also note that Healthcare industry companies like Humana commonly do use debt without problems. Looking at the bigger picture, it seems clear to us that Humana's use of debt is creating risks for the company. If everything goes well that may pay off but the downside of this debt is a greater risk of permanent losses. 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 example, we've discovered 5 warning signs for Humana (3 are concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
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.
Humana AB (publ) provides individual and family care services for children and adults in Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark.
Very undervalued with questionable track record.