Stock Analysis

Does Expedia Group (NASDAQ:EXPE) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

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NasdaqGS:EXPE
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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.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies Expedia Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPE) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. 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 step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Expedia Group

How Much Debt Does Expedia Group Carry?

As you can see below, Expedia Group had US$6.25b of debt, at September 2023, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it does have US$5.06b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$1.19b.

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NasdaqGS:EXPE Debt to Equity History December 3rd 2023

How Healthy Is Expedia Group's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Expedia Group had liabilities of US$12.6b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$7.04b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$5.06b and US$2.84b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$11.7b 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$19.3b. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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.

Expedia Group has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.76. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 25.0 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Also good is that Expedia Group grew its EBIT at 10% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Expedia Group's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last two years, Expedia Group actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

Happily, Expedia Group's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. 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 Expedia Group is pretty sensible with its use of debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Expedia Group 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 Expedia Group 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.