Would Precigen (NASDAQ:PGEN) Be Better Off With Less Debt?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
May 10, 2022
NasdaqGS:PGEN
Source: Shutterstock

Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We can see that Precigen, Inc. (NASDAQ:PGEN) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

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. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. 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. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Precigen

How Much Debt Does Precigen Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2021, Precigen had US$183.2m of debt, up from US$171.9m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had US$115.2m in cash, and so its net debt is US$68.0m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:PGEN Debt to Equity History May 10th 2022

How Strong Is Precigen's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Precigen had liabilities of US$34.6m due within a year, and liabilities of US$217.9m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$115.2m and US$21.5m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$115.9m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit isn't so bad because Precigen is worth US$259.6m, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Precigen 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.

Over 12 months, Precigen saw its revenue hold pretty steady, and it did not report positive earnings before interest and tax. While that hardly impresses, its not too bad either.

Caveat Emptor

Over the last twelve months Precigen produced an earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss. Indeed, it lost a very considerable US$79m at the EBIT level. When we look at that and recall the liabilities on its balance sheet, relative to cash, it seems unwise to us for the company to have any debt. So we think its balance sheet is a little strained, though not beyond repair. However, it doesn't help that it burned through US$63m of cash over the last year. So in short it's a really risky stock. 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. For example - Precigen has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

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.

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