Stock Analysis

Does Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

NYSE:BSX
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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.' 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 can see that Boston Scientific Corporation (NYSE:BSX) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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 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 step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

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What Is Boston Scientific's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2023 Boston Scientific had debt of US$9.45b, up from US$8.58b in one year. However, it also had US$426.0m in cash, and so its net debt is US$9.03b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:BSX Debt to Equity History November 3rd 2023

A Look At Boston Scientific's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Boston Scientific had liabilities of US$4.56b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$10.6b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$426.0m as well as receivables valued at US$2.13b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$12.6b.

Since publicly traded Boston Scientific shares are worth a very impressive total of US$75.6b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse.

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.

With net debt to EBITDA of 2.6 Boston Scientific has a fairly noticeable amount of debt. On the plus side, its EBIT was 9.1 times its interest expense, and its net debt to EBITDA, was quite high, at 2.6. If Boston Scientific can keep growing EBIT at last year's rate of 16% over the last year, then it will find its debt load easier to manage. 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 Boston Scientific 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.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Boston Scientific produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 62% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

The good news is that Boston Scientific's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But truth be told we feel its net debt to EBITDA does undermine this impression a bit. We would also note that Medical Equipment industry companies like Boston Scientific commonly do use debt without problems. Taking all this data into account, it seems to us that Boston Scientific takes a pretty sensible approach to debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Boston Scientific that 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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Boston Scientific is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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.