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Is Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN) Using Too Much Debt?
Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. Importantly, Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
When Is Debt Dangerous?
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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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.
View our latest analysis for Illumina
What Is Illumina's Debt?
As you can see below, at the end of January 2023, Illumina had US$2.74b of debt, up from US$1.70b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have US$2.04b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$698.0m.
How Strong Is Illumina's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Illumina had liabilities of US$2.77b due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.88b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$2.04b as well as receivables valued at US$688.0m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$2.93b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Given Illumina has a humongous market capitalization of US$35.9b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.
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.
Illumina has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.2. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 11.9 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. It is just as well that Illumina's load is not too heavy, because its EBIT was down 73% over the last year. When it comes to paying off debt, falling earnings are no more useful than sugary sodas are for your health. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Illumina 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, Illumina generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 82% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
The good news is that Illumina's demonstrated ability to convert EBIT to free cash flow delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But we must concede we find its EBIT growth rate has the opposite effect. All these things considered, it appears that Illumina can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. While Illumina didn't make a statutory profit in the last year, its positive EBIT suggests that profitability might not be far away. Click here to see if its earnings are heading in the right direction, over the medium term.
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.
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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.
Illumina, Inc. develops, manufactures, and markets life science tools and integrated systems for large-scale analysis of genetic variation and function.
Reasonable growth potential with adequate balance sheet.