Stock Analysis

Steel Dynamics (NASDAQ:STLD) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

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NasdaqGS:STLD
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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.' 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 Steel Dynamics, Inc. (NASDAQ:STLD) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. 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. 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 Steel Dynamics's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Steel Dynamics had US$3.05b in debt in June 2022; about the same as the year before. However, it also had US$1.36b in cash, and so its net debt is US$1.69b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:STLD Debt to Equity History September 5th 2022

A Look At Steel Dynamics' Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Steel Dynamics had liabilities of US$2.20b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$3.96b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$1.36b in cash and US$2.66b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.14b.

Since publicly traded Steel Dynamics shares are worth a very impressive total of US$14.2b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.

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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

Steel Dynamics's net debt is only 0.27 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 87.0 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Better yet, Steel Dynamics grew its EBIT by 196% last year, which is an impressive improvement. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. 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 Steel Dynamics 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. In the last three years, Steel Dynamics's free cash flow amounted to 35% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

Steel Dynamics's interest cover suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. Zooming out, Steel Dynamics seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. While debt does bring risk, when used wisely it can also bring a higher return on equity. 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. Be aware that Steel Dynamics is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about...

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 Steel Dynamics 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 NasdaqGS:STLD

Steel Dynamics

Steel Dynamics, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates as a steel producer and metal recycler in the United States.

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 Growth0
Past Performance6
Financial Health6
Dividends4

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

Flawless balance sheet with outstanding track record and pays a dividend.