We Think Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

Published
June 26, 2022
NYSE:CPB
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Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 Campbell Soup Company (NYSE:CPB) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Campbell Soup

What Is Campbell Soup's Net Debt?

As you can see below, Campbell Soup had US$4.72b of debt at May 2022, down from US$5.19b a year prior. However, it does have US$196.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$4.52b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:CPB Debt to Equity History June 26th 2022

How Strong Is Campbell Soup's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Campbell Soup had liabilities of US$2.70b due within a year, and liabilities of US$5.75b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$196.0m and US$511.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$7.75b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Campbell Soup has a huge market capitalization of US$14.6b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

With net debt to EBITDA of 2.6 Campbell Soup has a fairly noticeable amount of debt. But the high interest coverage of 7.4 suggests it can easily service that debt. Notably Campbell Soup's EBIT was pretty flat over the last year. We would prefer to see some earnings growth, because that always helps diminish 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 Campbell Soup 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Campbell Soup recorded free cash flow worth 72% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for Campbell Soup was the fact that it seems able to convert EBIT to free cash flow confidently. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. For example, its level of total liabilities makes us a little nervous about its debt. Considering this range of data points, we think Campbell Soup is in a good position to manage its debt levels. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. 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 Campbell Soup you should know about.

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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About NYSE:CPB

Campbell Soup

Campbell Soup Company, together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and markets food and beverage products the United States and internationally.

Undervalued with solid track record and pays a dividend.