Stock Analysis

Is IQVIA Holdings (NYSE:IQV) A Risky Investment?

NYSE:IQV
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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. We note that IQVIA Holdings Inc. (NYSE:IQV) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for IQVIA Holdings

What Is IQVIA Holdings's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2023, IQVIA Holdings had US$13.8b of debt, up from US$12.8b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. On the flip side, it has US$1.49b in cash leading to net debt of about US$12.3b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:IQV Debt to Equity History September 4th 2023

How Healthy Is IQVIA Holdings' Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, IQVIA Holdings had liabilities of US$6.54b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$13.7b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$1.49b as well as receivables valued at US$3.18b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$15.6b.

IQVIA Holdings has a very large market capitalization of US$41.1b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate 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.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (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).

IQVIA Holdings's debt is 4.7 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 3.7 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. Fortunately, IQVIA Holdings grew its EBIT by 9.6% in the last year, slowly shrinking its debt relative to earnings. 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 IQVIA Holdings 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. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, IQVIA Holdings actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

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. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. 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. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that IQVIA Holdings is managing its debt quite well. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. 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. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for IQVIA Holdings (1 is a bit unpleasant!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

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 IQVIA Holdings 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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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.