Stock Analysis

Humana (NYSE:HUM) Seems To Use Debt Rather Sparingly

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NYSE:HUM
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Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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. As with many other companies Humana Inc. (NYSE:HUM) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. 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. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Humana

What Is Humana's Net Debt?

As you can see below, Humana had US$12.0b of debt at March 2023, down from US$13.3b a year prior. However, its balance sheet shows it holds US$28.7b in cash, so it actually has US$16.7b net cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:HUM Debt to Equity History May 26th 2023

A Look At Humana's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Humana had liabilities of US$26.9b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$11.2b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$28.7b in cash and US$3.11b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$6.37b.

Of course, Humana has a titanic market capitalization of US$62.5b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Humana boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

The good news is that Humana has increased its EBIT by 8.3% over twelve months, which should ease any concerns about debt repayment. 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 Humana 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. While Humana has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. Happily for any shareholders, Humana actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Summing Up

While Humana does have more liabilities than liquid assets, it also has net cash of US$16.7b. The cherry on top was that in converted 108% of that EBIT to free cash flow, bringing in US$9.9b. So we don't think Humana's use of debt is risky. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Humana .

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

What are the risks and opportunities for Humana?

Humana Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates as a health and well-being company in the United States.

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Rewards

  • Trading at 57.1% below our estimate of its fair value

  • Earnings are forecast to grow 10.36% per year

  • Earnings grew by 2.6% over the past year

Risks

  • Significant insider selling over the past 3 months

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