Is Kontoor Brands (NYSE:KTB) Using Too Much Debt?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
May 20, 2022
NYSE:KTB
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.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. As with many other companies Kontoor Brands, Inc. (NYSE:KTB) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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, 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Kontoor Brands

What Is Kontoor Brands's Net Debt?

As you can see below, Kontoor Brands had US$791.9m of debt, at April 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$193.6m, its net debt is less, at about US$598.3m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:KTB Debt to Equity History May 20th 2022

How Healthy Is Kontoor Brands' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Kontoor Brands had liabilities of US$491.1m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$913.9m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$193.6m as well as receivables valued at US$280.3m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$931.0m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit isn't so bad because Kontoor Brands is worth US$2.08b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. 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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Kontoor Brands's net debt of 1.8 times EBITDA suggests graceful use of debt. And the fact that its trailing twelve months of EBIT was 8.9 times its interest expenses harmonizes with that theme. Also relevant is that Kontoor Brands has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 26% in the last year, thus enhancing its ability to pay down debt. 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 Kontoor Brands 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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Kontoor Brands actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

Kontoor Brands's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its level of total liabilities. Taking all this data into account, it seems to us that Kontoor Brands takes a pretty sensible approach to debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. We've identified 4 warning signs with Kontoor Brands (at least 1 which is significant) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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