David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the 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. Importantly, DXP Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ:DXPE) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
When Is Debt Dangerous?
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. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does DXP Enterprises Carry?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that DXP Enterprises had US$212.3m of debt in September 2020, down from US$238.1m, one year before. However, it does have US$97.3m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$115.0m.
A Look At DXP Enterprises' Liabilities
The latest balance sheet data shows that DXP Enterprises had liabilities of US$155.9m due within a year, and liabilities of US$257.3m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$97.3m as well as receivables valued at US$180.4m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$135.5m.
This deficit isn't so bad because DXP Enterprises is worth US$491.6m, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.
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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
While DXP Enterprises has a quite reasonable net debt to EBITDA multiple of 2.4, its interest cover seems weak, at 1.5. This does have us wondering if the company pays high interest because it is considered risky. Either way there's no doubt the stock is using meaningful leverage. Importantly, DXP Enterprises's EBIT fell a jaw-dropping 69% in the last twelve months. If that earnings trend continues then paying off its debt will be about as easy as herding cats on to a roller coaster. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine DXP Enterprises'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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, DXP Enterprises recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 84% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
Neither DXP Enterprises's ability to grow its EBIT nor its interest cover gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that DXP Enterprises is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for DXP Enterprises (of which 1 is potentially serious!) 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.
If you’re looking to trade DXP Enterprises, open an account with the lowest-cost* platform trusted by professionals, Interactive Brokers. Their clients from over 200 countries and territories trade stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds worldwide from a single integrated account. Promoted
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
*Interactive Brokers Rated Lowest Cost Broker by StockBrokers.com Annual Online Review 2020
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.