Does LKQ (NASDAQ:LKQ) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 30, 2021
NasdaqGS:LKQ
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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 LKQ Corporation (NASDAQ:LKQ) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for LKQ

What Is LKQ's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that LKQ had US$2.33b of debt in September 2021, down from US$3.10b, one year before. However, it also had US$402.7m in cash, and so its net debt is US$1.93b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:LKQ Debt to Equity History December 30th 2021

How Healthy Is LKQ's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, LKQ had liabilities of US$2.32b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$4.20b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$402.7m in cash and US$1.19b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$4.93b.

LKQ has a very large market capitalization of US$17.3b, 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).

LKQ's net debt is only 1.1 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 20.3 times the size. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. On top of that, LKQ grew its EBIT by 49% 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 ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if LKQ 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 we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, LKQ recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 98% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

The good news is that LKQ's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And the good news does not stop there, as its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow also supports that impression! Overall, we don't think LKQ is taking any bad risks, as its debt load seems modest. So we're not worried about the use of a little leverage on the balance sheet. 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. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with LKQ .

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.

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