Stock Analysis

Does Dollar General (NYSE:DG) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

NYSE:DG
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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. We note that Dollar General Corporation (NYSE:DG) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Dollar General

What Is Dollar General's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at May 2023 Dollar General had debt of US$7.28b, up from US$4.85b in one year. On the flip side, it has US$313.1m in cash leading to net debt of about US$6.97b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:DG Debt to Equity History July 18th 2023

A Look At Dollar General's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Dollar General had liabilities of US$6.10b due within a year, and liabilities of US$17.8b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$313.1m in cash and US$50.9m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$23.5b.

This is a mountain of leverage even relative to its gargantuan market capitalization of US$35.8b. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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).

Dollar General's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 1.7 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its strong interest cover of 13.1 times, makes us even more comfortable. Dollar General grew its EBIT by 8.5% in the last year. That's far from incredible but it is a good thing, when it comes to paying off debt. 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 Dollar General 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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. In the last three years, Dollar General's free cash flow amounted to 33% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for Dollar General was the fact that it seems able to cover its interest expense with its EBIT confidently. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. For example, its level of total liabilities makes us a little nervous about its debt. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Dollar General's debt levels. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we'd suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. 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 Dollar General you should know about.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Dollar General is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.