Polaris (NYSE:PII) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 08, 2022
NYSE:PII
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. As with many other companies Polaris Inc. (NYSE:PII) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

View our latest analysis for Polaris

How Much Debt Does Polaris Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2021 Polaris had debt of US$1.80b, up from US$1.45b in one year. However, it does have US$509.2m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$1.29b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:PII Debt to Equity History April 8th 2022

A Look At Polaris' Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Polaris had liabilities of US$2.23b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.59b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$509.2m as well as receivables valued at US$244.5m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$3.07b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Polaris has a market capitalization of US$6.16b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate 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). 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).

Polaris has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.4. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 16.0 times over. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. Also good is that Polaris grew its EBIT at 20% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage 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 Polaris'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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Polaris produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 67% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

Polaris's interest cover 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. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like Polaris is pretty sensible with its use of debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for Polaris you should be aware of, and 2 of them are potentially serious.

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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