Stock Analysis

Does St. Joe (NYSE:JOE) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

  •  Updated
NYSE:JOE
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, '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. We can see that The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for St. Joe

What Is St. Joe's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2022, St. Joe had US$469.2m of debt, up from US$360.5m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. On the flip side, it has US$135.6m in cash leading to net debt of about US$333.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:JOE Debt to Equity History October 4th 2022

A Look At St. Joe's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that St. Joe had liabilities of US$77.2m due within a year, and liabilities of US$595.2m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$135.6m as well as receivables valued at US$43.0m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$493.8m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since St. Joe has a market capitalization of US$1.92b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

St. Joe's net debt is 2.8 times its EBITDA, which is a significant but still reasonable amount of leverage. But its EBIT was about 13.9 times its interest expense, implying the company isn't really paying a high cost to maintain that level of debt. Even were the low cost to prove unsustainable, that is a good sign. Importantly, St. Joe grew its EBIT by 35% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is St. Joe's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, St. Joe recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 91% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

Happily, St. Joe's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But truth be told we feel its net debt to EBITDA does undermine this impression a bit. Zooming out, St. Joe seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. 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. We've identified 1 warning sign with St. Joe , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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 St. Joe 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.

View the Free Analysis

About NYSE:JOE

St. Joe

The St. Joe Company, together with its subsidiaries, operates as a real estate development, asset management, and operating company in Northwest Florida.

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)
Valuation0
Future Growth0
Past Performance4
Financial Health2
Dividends2

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

Proven track record with imperfect balance sheet.