Stock Analysis

IQVIA Holdings (NYSE:IQV) Has A Pretty Healthy Balance Sheet

NYSE:IQV
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Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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 IQVIA Holdings Inc. (NYSE:IQV) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for IQVIA Holdings

What Is IQVIA Holdings's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of March 2023 IQVIA Holdings had US$13.2b of debt, an increase on US$12.6b, over one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$1.60b, its net debt is less, at about US$11.6b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:IQV Debt to Equity History June 5th 2023

How Healthy Is IQVIA Holdings' Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that IQVIA Holdings had liabilities of US$6.66b due within a year, and liabilities of US$13.2b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$1.60b in cash and US$3.11b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$15.1b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit isn't so bad because IQVIA Holdings is worth a massive US$37.4b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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). 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).

IQVIA Holdings's debt is 4.5 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 4.1 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. However, one redeeming factor is that IQVIA Holdings grew its EBIT at 16% over the last 12 months, boosting its ability to handle its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine IQVIA Holdings's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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 we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, IQVIA Holdings actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

On our analysis IQVIA Holdings's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. But the other factors we noted above weren't so encouraging. To be specific, it seems about as good at managing its debt, based on its EBITDA, as wet socks are at keeping your feet warm. Considering this range of data points, we think IQVIA Holdings is in a good position to manage its debt levels. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for IQVIA Holdings you should know about.

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

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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.