- United States
- Specialty Stores
Here's Why Guess' (NYSE:GES) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly
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. As with many other companies Guess', Inc. (NYSE:GES) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
When Is Debt Dangerous?
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. 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. 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 examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
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How Much Debt Does Guess' Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at October 2022 Guess' had debt of US$471.6m, up from US$348.4m in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$174.1m, its net debt is less, at about US$297.6m.
A Look At Guess''s Liabilities
According to the last reported balance sheet, Guess' had liabilities of US$732.7m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$1.12b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$174.1m in cash and US$319.3m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$1.36b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of US$1.13b, we think shareholders really should watch Guess''s debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.
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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Guess' has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.94. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 19.5 times over. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Also good is that Guess' grew its EBIT at 14% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Guess''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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, Guess' produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 72% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
Guess''s interest cover was a real positive on this analysis, as was its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. In contrast, our confidence was undermined by its apparent struggle to handle its total liabilities. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Guess' is managing its debt quite well. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. To that end, you should be aware of the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Guess' .
Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.
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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.
Guess?, Inc. designs, markets, distributes, and licenses lifestyle collections of apparel and accessories for men, women, and children.
Excellent balance sheet average dividend payer.