Stock Analysis

Does Strategic Education (NASDAQ:STRA) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

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NasdaqGS:STRA
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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 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. We can see that Strategic Education, Inc. (NASDAQ:STRA) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Strategic Education

How Much Debt Does Strategic Education Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Strategic Education had US$141.4m in debt in June 2022; about the same as the year before. But on the other hand it also has US$271.8m in cash, leading to a US$130.4m net cash position.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:STRA Debt to Equity History September 20th 2022

How Healthy Is Strategic Education's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Strategic Education had liabilities of US$235.6m due within a year, and liabilities of US$372.7m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$271.8m in cash and US$75.9m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$260.6m.

Of course, Strategic Education has a market capitalization of US$1.55b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Strategic Education boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

On the other hand, Strategic Education's EBIT dived 17%, over the last year. If that rate of decline in earnings continues, the company could find itself in a tight spot. 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 Strategic Education 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. While Strategic Education has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. Over the last three years, Strategic Education actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Summing Up

Although Strategic Education's balance sheet isn't particularly strong, due to the total liabilities, it is clearly positive to see that it has net cash of US$130.4m. The cherry on top was that in converted 102% of that EBIT to free cash flow, bringing in US$86m. So we don't have any problem with Strategic Education's use of debt. 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. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Strategic Education that you should be aware of.

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 Strategic Education 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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About NasdaqGS:STRA

Strategic Education

Strategic Education, Inc., through its subsidiaries, provides education services through campus-based and online post-secondary education, and programs to develop job-ready skills.

The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.

Analysis AreaScore (0-6)
Valuation2
Future Growth3
Past Performance4
Financial Health5
Dividends2

Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.

Excellent balance sheet with proven track record.