Stock Analysis

We Think IQVIA Holdings (NYSE:IQV) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

NYSE:IQV
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Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies IQVIA Holdings Inc. (NYSE:IQV) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

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What Is IQVIA Holdings's Debt?

As you can see below, IQVIA Holdings had US$12.4b of debt, at September 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it does have US$1.36b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$11.0b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:IQV Debt to Equity History November 9th 2022

How Strong Is IQVIA Holdings' Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, IQVIA Holdings had liabilities of US$5.25b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$13.6b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$1.36b in cash and US$2.69b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$14.8b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

IQVIA Holdings has a very large market capitalization of US$38.6b, 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 has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.0 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 5.2 times. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Importantly, IQVIA Holdings grew its EBIT by 53% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. 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.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, IQVIA Holdings actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

Happily, IQVIA Holdings's impressive conversion of EBIT to free cash flow implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its net debt to EBITDA. Taking all this data into account, it seems to us that IQVIA Holdings takes a pretty sensible approach to debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Be aware that IQVIA Holdings is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , you should know about...

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.

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.