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. 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. We note that RadNet, Inc. (NASDAQ:RDNT) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well – and to its own advantage. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
What Is RadNet’s Net Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of September 2019 RadNet had US$702.3m of debt, an increase on US$580, over one year. However, it also had US$37.7m in cash, and so its net debt is US$664.6m.
A Look At RadNet’s Liabilities
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that RadNet had liabilities of US$309.5m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$1.09b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$37.7m in cash and US$152.1m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$1.21b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Given this deficit is actually higher than the company’s market capitalization of US$1.04b, we think shareholders really should watch RadNet’s debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.
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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Weak interest cover of 1.1 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 5.0 hit our confidence in RadNet like a one-two punch to the gut. This means we’d consider it to have a heavy debt load. Fortunately, RadNet grew its EBIT by 8.8% in the last year, slowly shrinking its debt relative to earnings. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine RadNet’s ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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. Over the last three years, RadNet 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.
RadNet’s interest cover and net debt to EBITDA definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. It’s also worth noting that RadNet is in the Healthcare industry, which is often considered to be quite defensive. When we consider all the factors discussed, it seems to us that RadNet is taking some risks with its use of debt. So while that leverage does boost returns on equity, we wouldn’t really want to see it increase from here. 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. Be aware that RadNet is showing 4 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those can’t be ignored…
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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.