Is Cross Country Healthcare (NASDAQ:CCRN) Using Too Much Debt?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
May 11, 2022
NasdaqGS:CCRN
Source: Shutterstock

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. Importantly, Cross Country Healthcare, Inc. (NASDAQ:CCRN) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

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 usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Cross Country Healthcare

How Much Debt Does Cross Country Healthcare Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of March 2022 Cross Country Healthcare had US$220.2m of debt, an increase on US$98.5m, over one year. And it doesn't have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:CCRN Debt to Equity History May 11th 2022

How Healthy Is Cross Country Healthcare's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Cross Country Healthcare had liabilities of US$283.2m due within a year, and liabilities of US$277.1m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$1.21m in cash and US$682.8m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it can boast US$123.6m more liquid assets than total liabilities.

This surplus suggests that Cross Country Healthcare is using debt in a way that is appears to be both safe and conservative. Because it has plenty of assets, it is unlikely to have trouble with its lenders.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Cross Country Healthcare's net debt is only 0.97 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 22.2 times over. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. Better yet, Cross Country Healthcare grew its EBIT by 466% last year, which is an impressive improvement. That boost will make it even easier to pay down debt going forward. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Cross Country Healthcare 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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Cross Country Healthcare saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.

Our View

Cross Country Healthcare's interest cover suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But we must concede we find its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow has the opposite effect. It's also worth noting that Cross Country Healthcare is in the Healthcare industry, which is often considered to be quite defensive. Looking at the bigger picture, we think Cross Country Healthcare's use of debt seems quite reasonable and we're not concerned about it. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. 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. For instance, we've identified 5 warning signs for Cross Country Healthcare (3 are a bit concerning) 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.

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