Stock Analysis

Vista Outdoor (NYSE:VSTO) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

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NYSE:VSTO
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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. We can see that Vista Outdoor Inc. (NYSE:VSTO) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out the opportunities and risks within the US Leisure industry.

How Much Debt Does Vista Outdoor Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2022 Vista Outdoor had debt of US$586.3m, up from US$495.7m in one year. On the flip side, it has US$36.6m in cash leading to net debt of about US$549.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:VSTO Debt to Equity History October 26th 2022

A Look At Vista Outdoor's Liabilities

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Vista Outdoor had liabilities of US$420.4m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$787.3m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$36.6m and US$436.4m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$734.8m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Vista Outdoor has a market capitalization of US$1.55b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Vista Outdoor's net debt is only 0.73 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 26.1 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. In addition to that, we're happy to report that Vista Outdoor has boosted its EBIT by 84%, thus reducing the spectre of future debt repayments. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Vista Outdoor can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Vista Outdoor recorded free cash flow worth 70% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

The good news is that Vista Outdoor's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But truth be told we feel its level of total liabilities does undermine this impression a bit. Looking at the bigger picture, we think Vista Outdoor's use of debt seems quite reasonable and we're not concerned about it. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. 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. Be aware that Vista Outdoor is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is a bit concerning...

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.

What are the risks and opportunities for Vista Outdoor?

Vista Outdoor Inc. designs, manufactures, and markets consumer products in the outdoor sports and recreation markets in the United States and internationally.

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Rewards

  • Trading at 57.2% below our estimate of its fair value

Risks

  • Earnings are forecast to decline by an average of 8% per year for the next 3 years

  • Has a high level of debt

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