Stock Analysis

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

NYSE:DG
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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. Importantly, Dollar General Corporation (NYSE:DG) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. 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. 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.

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 August 2023 Dollar General had debt of US$7.30b, up from US$5.19b in one year. However, it does have US$353.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$6.94b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:DG Debt to Equity History October 23rd 2023

A Look At Dollar General's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Dollar General had liabilities of US$6.03b due within a year, and liabilities of US$18.1b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$353.0m in cash and US$151.7m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$23.6b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This is a mountain of leverage even relative to its gargantuan market capitalization of US$25.3b. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe 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). 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).

We'd say that Dollar General's moderate net debt to EBITDA ratio ( being 1.8), indicates prudence when it comes to debt. And its strong interest cover of 10.5 times, makes us even more comfortable. Notably Dollar General's EBIT was pretty flat over the last year. We would prefer to see some earnings growth, because that always helps diminish 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 want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. In the last three years, Dollar General's free cash flow amounted to 26% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

Dollar General's level of total liabilities and conversion of EBIT to free cash flow definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But its interest cover tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. Taking the abovementioned factors together we do think Dollar General's debt poses some risks to the business. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. 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. Be aware that Dollar General is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about...

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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.