Stock Analysis

Is Dave & Buster's Entertainment (NASDAQ:PLAY) Using Too Much Debt?

NasdaqGS:PLAY
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David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the 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. We note that Dave & Buster's Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ:PLAY) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Dave & Buster's Entertainment

How Much Debt Does Dave & Buster's Entertainment Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of July 2023, Dave & Buster's Entertainment had US$1.29b of debt, up from US$1.23b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. On the flip side, it has US$82.6m in cash leading to net debt of about US$1.21b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:PLAY Debt to Equity History November 15th 2023

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

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Dave & Buster's Entertainment had liabilities of US$422.5m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$2.99b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$82.6m as well as receivables valued at US$56.6m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$3.28b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$1.53b company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. At the end of the day, Dave & Buster's Entertainment would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Dave & Buster's Entertainment has net debt worth 2.3 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 2.6 times the interest expense. While these numbers do not alarm us, it's worth noting that the cost of the company's debt is having a real impact. Importantly, Dave & Buster's Entertainment grew its EBIT by 32% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Dave & Buster's Entertainment 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Dave & Buster's Entertainment recorded free cash flow worth 71% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

While Dave & Buster's Entertainment's level of total liabilities has us nervous. For example, its EBIT growth rate and conversion of EBIT to free cash flow give us some confidence in its ability to manage its debt. Taking the abovementioned factors together we do think Dave & Buster's Entertainment's debt poses some risks to the business. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Be aware that Dave & Buster's Entertainment is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those can't be ignored...

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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

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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.