Ichor Holdings (NASDAQ:ICHR) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

July 18, 2022
  •  Updated
August 15, 2022
NasdaqGS:ICHR
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The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. Importantly, Ichor Holdings, Ltd. (NASDAQ:ICHR) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. 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.

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How Much Debt Does Ichor Holdings Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of April 2022, Ichor Holdings had US$291.0m of debt, up from US$168.3m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had US$34.5m in cash, and so its net debt is US$256.5m.

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NasdaqGS:ICHR Debt to Equity History July 18th 2022

How Healthy Is Ichor Holdings' Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Ichor Holdings had liabilities of US$194.1m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$314.5m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$34.5m in cash and US$153.5m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$320.5m.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Ichor Holdings has a market capitalization of US$802.2m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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). 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).

Ichor Holdings's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 2.2 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its commanding EBIT of 14.0 times its interest expense, implies the debt load is as light as a peacock feather. Importantly, Ichor Holdings grew its EBIT by 38% 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 Ichor 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.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Ichor Holdings reported free cash flow worth 15% of its EBIT, which is really quite low. That limp level of cash conversion undermines its ability to manage and pay down debt.

Our View

Both Ichor Holdings's ability to to cover its interest expense with its EBIT and its EBIT growth rate gave us comfort that it can handle its debt. Having said that, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow somewhat sensitizes us to potential future risks to the balance sheet. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Ichor Holdings 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Ichor Holdings (of which 2 are potentially serious!) you should know about.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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