Here's Why PACCAR (NASDAQ:PCAR) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 23, 2022
NasdaqGS:PCAR
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 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. As with many other companies PACCAR Inc (NASDAQ:PCAR) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for PACCAR

How Much Debt Does PACCAR Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that PACCAR had US$10.5b of debt in December 2021, down from US$11.0b, one year before. On the flip side, it has US$4.81b in cash leading to net debt of about US$5.67b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:PCAR Debt to Equity History March 23rd 2022

How Strong Is PACCAR's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, PACCAR had liabilities of US$8.51b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$9.35b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$4.81b as well as receivables valued at US$1.58b due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$11.5b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since PACCAR has a huge market capitalization of US$31.0b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). 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).

We'd say that PACCAR's moderate net debt to EBITDA ratio ( being 2.1), indicates prudence when it comes to debt. And its strong interest cover of 1k times, makes us even more comfortable. It is well worth noting that PACCAR's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 46% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier to manage its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine PACCAR'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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, PACCAR recorded free cash flow of 40% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

The good news is that PACCAR'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 EBIT growth rate is also very heartening. Looking at all the aforementioned factors together, it strikes us that PACCAR can handle its debt fairly comfortably. 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. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example, we've discovered 3 warning signs for PACCAR that you should be aware of before investing here.

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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