Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. We note that Insulet Corporation (NASDAQ:PODD) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. 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. 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.
What Is Insulet's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2021 Insulet had debt of US$1.26b, up from US$910.2m in one year. On the flip side, it has US$872.1m in cash leading to net debt of about US$384.0m.
How Strong Is Insulet's Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Insulet had liabilities of US$213.3m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.25b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$872.1m and US$100.3m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$492.2m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Of course, Insulet has a titanic market capitalization of US$20.2b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.
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.
While we wouldn't worry about Insulet's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.1, we think its super-low interest cover of 1.1 times is a sign of high leverage. In large part that's due to the company's significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Another concern for investors might be that Insulet's EBIT fell 16% in the last year. If that's the way things keep going handling the debt load will be like delivering hot coffees on a pogo stick. 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 Insulet 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Insulet burned a lot of cash. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.
On the face of it, Insulet's interest cover left us tentative about the stock, and its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But on the bright side, its level of total liabilities is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. We should also note that Medical Equipment industry companies like Insulet commonly do use debt without problems. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Insulet has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. 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. For example - Insulet has 2 warning signs we think 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.
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.
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