These 4 Measures Indicate That ACI Worldwide (NASDAQ:ACIW) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 14, 2022
NasdaqGS:ACIW
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.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. We can see that ACI Worldwide, Inc. (NASDAQ:ACIW) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for ACI Worldwide

What Is ACI Worldwide's Net Debt?

As you can see below, ACI Worldwide had US$1.08b of debt at December 2021, down from US$1.18b a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$122.1m, its net debt is less, at about US$959.1m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:ACIW Debt to Equity History March 14th 2022

How Healthy Is ACI Worldwide's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that ACI Worldwide had liabilities of US$754.2m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$1.16b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$122.1m in cash and US$320.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$1.47b.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since ACI Worldwide has a market capitalization of US$3.64b, 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.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

ACI Worldwide has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.4 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 6.7 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. If ACI Worldwide can keep growing EBIT at last year's rate of 18% over the last year, then it will find its debt load easier to manage. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if ACI Worldwide 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, ACI Worldwide generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 98% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

ACI Worldwide'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 net debt to EBITDA. All these things considered, it appears that ACI Worldwide can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. Case in point: We've spotted 1 warning sign for ACI Worldwide you should be aware of.

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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