Stock Analysis

Dave & Buster's Entertainment (NASDAQ:PLAY) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

NasdaqGS:PLAY
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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.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies Dave & Buster's Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ:PLAY) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. 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, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Dave & Buster's Entertainment

What Is Dave & Buster's Entertainment's Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at January 2023 Dave & Buster's Entertainment had debt of US$1.23b, up from US$435.2m in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$181.6m, its net debt is less, at about US$1.05b.

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NasdaqGS:PLAY Debt to Equity History May 9th 2023

A Look At Dave & Buster's Entertainment's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Dave & Buster's Entertainment had liabilities of US$438.0m due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.91b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$181.6m in cash and US$25.5m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$3.14b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit casts a shadow over the US$1.62b company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. After all, Dave & Buster's Entertainment would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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).

Dave & Buster's Entertainment's net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 2.3 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 3.3 times last year. While that doesn't worry us too much, it does suggest the interest payments are somewhat of a burden. It is well worth noting that Dave & Buster's Entertainment's EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 56% in the last twelve months. That'll make it easier to manage its 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 Dave & Buster's Entertainment'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.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last two years, Dave & Buster's Entertainment generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 84% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

While Dave & Buster's Entertainment's level of total liabilities has us nervous. To wit both its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and EBIT growth rate were encouraging signs. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Dave & Buster's Entertainment is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. 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 1 warning sign for Dave & Buster's Entertainment 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 Dave & Buster's Entertainment 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.