Does NuVasive (NASDAQ:NUVA) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

Published
August 11, 2022
NasdaqGS:NUVA
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Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies NuVasive, Inc. (NASDAQ:NUVA) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for NuVasive

What Is NuVasive's Net Debt?

As you can see below, NuVasive had US$888.6m of debt, at June 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. On the flip side, it has US$226.0m in cash leading to net debt of about US$662.6m.

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NasdaqGS:NUVA Debt to Equity History August 11th 2022

A Look At NuVasive's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, NuVasive had liabilities of US$701.4m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$646.3m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$226.0m as well as receivables valued at US$233.6m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$888.1m.

This deficit isn't so bad because NuVasive is worth US$2.67b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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.

NuVasive has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.4 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.3 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. Even worse, NuVasive saw its EBIT tank 42% over the last 12 months. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if NuVasive 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 always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, NuVasive actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

Neither NuVasive's ability to grow its EBIT nor its interest cover gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But the good news is it seems to be able to convert EBIT to free cash flow with ease. We should also note that Medical Equipment industry companies like NuVasive commonly do use debt without problems. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that NuVasive is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for NuVasive you should know about.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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