These 4 Measures Indicate That Duluth Holdings (NASDAQ:DLTH) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 08, 2022
NasdaqGS:DLTH
Source: Shutterstock

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.' 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 note that Duluth Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:DLTH) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free 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 frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Duluth Holdings

What Is Duluth Holdings's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Duluth Holdings had US$27.4m of debt in October 2021, down from US$119.9m, one year before. On the flip side, it has US$20.4m in cash leading to net debt of about US$7.06m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:DLTH Debt to Equity History March 8th 2022

How Healthy Is Duluth Holdings' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Duluth Holdings had liabilities of US$116.7m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$186.2m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$20.4m in cash and US$7.73m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$274.8m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$440.7m, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Duluth Holdings' use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

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).

With debt at a measly 0.089 times EBITDA and EBIT covering interest a whopping 10.3 times, it's clear that Duluth Holdings is not a desperate borrower. So relative to past earnings, the debt load seems trivial. In addition to that, we're happy to report that Duluth Holdings has boosted its EBIT by 88%, thus reducing the spectre of future debt repayments. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Duluth 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Duluth Holdings generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 85% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

Duluth Holdings's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its level of total liabilities. Looking at the bigger picture, we think Duluth Holdings's use of debt seems quite reasonable and we're not concerned about it. While debt does bring risk, when used wisely it can also bring a higher return on equity. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Duluth Holdings you should know about.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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