Stock Analysis

Is Bio-Rad Laboratories (NYSE:BIO) Using Too Much Debt?

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NYSE:BIO
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The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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. We note that Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE:BIO) does have debt on its balance sheet. 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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Bio-Rad Laboratories

How Much Debt Does Bio-Rad Laboratories Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2022, Bio-Rad Laboratories had US$1.19b of debt, up from US$1.24m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. But on the other hand it also has US$1.97b in cash, leading to a US$781.0m net cash position.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:BIO Debt to Equity History September 2nd 2022

How Strong Is Bio-Rad Laboratories' Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Bio-Rad Laboratories had liabilities of US$613.7m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$3.15b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$1.97b in cash and US$456.6m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$1.34b.

Of course, Bio-Rad Laboratories has a titanic market capitalization of US$14.6b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward. While it does have liabilities worth noting, Bio-Rad Laboratories also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.

And we also note warmly that Bio-Rad Laboratories grew its EBIT by 16% last year, making its debt load easier to handle. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Bio-Rad Laboratories 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. Bio-Rad Laboratories may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. During the last three years, Bio-Rad Laboratories generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 93% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Summing Up

While it is always sensible to look at a company's total liabilities, it is very reassuring that Bio-Rad Laboratories has US$781.0m in net cash. And it impressed us with free cash flow of US$364m, being 93% of its EBIT. So we don't think Bio-Rad Laboratories's use of debt is risky. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Be aware that Bio-Rad Laboratories is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , you should know about...

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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About NYSE:BIO

Bio-Rad Laboratories

Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. manufactures, and distributes life science research and clinical diagnostic products in the United States, Europe, Asia, Canada, and Latin America.

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)
Valuation3
Future Growth3
Past Performance0
Financial Health6
Dividends0

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

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