Stock Analysis

Is Estée Lauder Companies (NYSE:EL) Using Too Much Debt?

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NYSE:EL
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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. Importantly, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. (NYSE:EL) does carry 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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Estée Lauder Companies

How Much Debt Does Estée Lauder Companies Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Estée Lauder Companies had US$5.51b in debt in June 2022; about the same as the year before. However, it does have US$3.98b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$1.53b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:EL Debt to Equity History September 29th 2022

A Look At Estée Lauder Companies' Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Estée Lauder Companies had liabilities of US$5.82b due within a year, and liabilities of US$8.66b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$3.98b as well as receivables valued at US$1.63b due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$8.87b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given Estée Lauder Companies has a humongous market capitalization of US$81.4b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much 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.

Estée Lauder Companies has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.36. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 25.9 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Also good is that Estée Lauder Companies grew its EBIT at 18% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. 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 Estée Lauder Companies 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Estée Lauder Companies produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 77% 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

Estée Lauder Companies's interest cover suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. Considering this range of factors, it seems to us that Estée Lauder Companies is quite prudent with its debt, and the risks seem well managed. So we're not worried about the use of a little leverage on the balance sheet. 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. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Estée Lauder Companies .

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 Estée Lauder Companies 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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About NYSE:EL

Estée Lauder Companies

The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. manufactures, markets, and sells skin care, makeup, fragrance, and hair care products worldwide.

The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.

Analysis AreaScore (0-6)
Valuation2
Future Growth4
Past Performance3
Financial Health4
Dividends4

Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.

Reasonable growth potential with adequate balance sheet and pays a dividend.