Open Text (NASDAQ:OTEX) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 25, 2022
NasdaqGS:OTEX
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. Importantly, Open Text Corporation (NASDAQ:OTEX) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Open Text

What Is Open Text's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of December 2021 Open Text had US$4.22b of debt, an increase on US$3.59b, over one year. On the flip side, it has US$1.52b in cash leading to net debt of about US$2.70b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:OTEX Debt to Equity History April 25th 2022

A Look At Open Text's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Open Text had liabilities of US$1.30b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$4.73b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$1.52b as well as receivables valued at US$469.2m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$4.05b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Open Text has a very large market capitalization of US$11.0b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

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).

Open Text has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.7 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 5.0 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. Open Text grew its EBIT by 4.5% in the last year. Whilst that hardly knocks our socks off it is a positive when it comes to debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Open Text'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.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Open Text actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

On our analysis Open Text's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For example, its net debt to EBITDA makes us a little nervous about its debt. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Open Text is managing its debt quite well. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. 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. Be aware that Open Text is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is concerning...

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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