Stock Analysis

Noodles (NASDAQ:NDLS) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

NasdaqGS:NDLS
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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, Noodles & Company (NASDAQ:NDLS) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Noodles

What Is Noodles's Debt?

As you can see below, Noodles had US$31.1m of debt at June 2022, down from US$37.3m a year prior. However, it does have US$1.79m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$29.4m.

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NasdaqGS:NDLS Debt to Equity History August 3rd 2022

How Strong Is Noodles' Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Noodles had liabilities of US$70.0m due within a year, and liabilities of US$233.7m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$1.79m and US$4.18m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$297.7m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's US$235.4m market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive 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).

Given net debt is only 1.1 times EBITDA, it is initially surprising to see that Noodles's EBIT has low interest coverage of 2.2 times. So while we're not necessarily alarmed we think that its debt is far from trivial. Importantly, Noodles's EBIT fell a jaw-dropping 35% in the last twelve months. If that earnings trend continues then paying off its debt will be about as easy as herding cats on to a roller coaster. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Noodles 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 two years, Noodles's free cash flow amounted to 37% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

Mulling over Noodles's attempt at (not) growing its EBIT, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But at least it's pretty decent at managing its debt, based on its EBITDA,; that's encouraging. We're quite clear that we consider Noodles to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. 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. We've identified 1 warning sign with Noodles , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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 Noodles 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.