Stock Analysis

IES Holdings (NASDAQ:IESC) Has A Rock Solid Balance Sheet

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NasdaqGM:IESC
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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.' 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 can see that IES Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:IESC) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. 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 examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

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How Much Debt Does IES Holdings Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2021, IES Holdings had US$30.6m of debt, up from US$256.0k a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had US$18.5m in cash, and so its net debt is US$12.1m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGM:IESC Debt to Equity History September 8th 2021

How Strong Is IES Holdings' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that IES Holdings had liabilities of US$289.5m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$74.9m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$18.5m in cash and US$315.0m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$30.9m.

Since publicly traded IES Holdings shares are worth a total of US$991.1m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward. But either way, IES Holdings has virtually no net debt, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

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.

IES Holdings's net debt is only 0.12 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 131 times the size. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. In addition to that, we're happy to report that IES Holdings has boosted its EBIT by 56%, thus reducing the spectre of future debt repayments. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is IES Holdings's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, IES Holdings recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 86% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

The good news is that IES Holdings'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. It looks IES Holdings has no trouble standing on its own two feet, and it has no reason to fear its lenders. To our minds it has a healthy happy balance sheet. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example IES Holdings has 2 warning signs (and 1 which is a bit unpleasant) we think you should know about.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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What are the risks and opportunities for IES Holdings?

IES Holdings, Inc. designs and installs integrated electrical and technology systems, and provides infrastructure products and services in the United States.

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Rewards

  • Price-To-Earnings ratio (21.7x) is below the Construction industry average (21.9x)

Risks

  • Profit margins (1.7%) are lower than last year (4%)

  • Large one-off items impacting financial results

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