Sprouts Farmers Market (NASDAQ:SFM) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 18, 2022
NasdaqGS:SFM
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. We note that Sprouts Farmers Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:SFM) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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 common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. 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 Sprouts Farmers Market

What Is Sprouts Farmers Market's Debt?

As you can see below, Sprouts Farmers Market had US$255.1m of debt, at January 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it also had US$245.3m in cash, and so its net debt is US$9.82m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:SFM Debt to Equity History April 18th 2022

A Look At Sprouts Farmers Market's Liabilities

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Sprouts Farmers Market had liabilities of US$513.5m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$1.45b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$245.3m in cash and US$33.2m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$1.68b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit isn't so bad because Sprouts Farmers Market is worth US$3.55b, 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. Carrying virtually no net debt, Sprouts Farmers Market has a very light debt load indeed.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

With debt at a measly 0.021 times EBITDA and EBIT covering interest a whopping 29.0 times, it's clear that Sprouts Farmers Market is not a desperate borrower. So relative to past earnings, the debt load seems trivial. But the bad news is that Sprouts Farmers Market has seen its EBIT plunge 13% in the last twelve months. We think hat kind of performance, if repeated frequently, could well lead to difficulties for the stock. 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 Sprouts Farmers Market 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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Sprouts Farmers Market generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 85% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

Sprouts Farmers Market'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 the stark truth is that we are concerned by its EBIT growth rate. All these things considered, it appears that Sprouts Farmers Market can comfortably handle its current debt levels. 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. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Sprouts Farmers Market you should know about.

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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