Stock Analysis

We Think TTEC Holdings (NASDAQ:TTEC) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

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NasdaqGS:TTEC
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Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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 note that TTEC Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:TTEC) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Our analysis indicates that TTEC is potentially undervalued!

What Is TTEC Holdings's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at September 2022 TTEC Holdings had debt of US$955.0m, up from US$805.0m in one year. However, it also had US$172.3m in cash, and so its net debt is US$782.7m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:TTEC Debt to Equity History November 30th 2022

A Look At TTEC Holdings' Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that TTEC Holdings had liabilities of US$462.2m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.11b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$172.3m as well as receivables valued at US$432.5m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$970.2m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

TTEC Holdings has a market capitalization of US$2.17b, 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 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.

With net debt to EBITDA of 2.6 TTEC Holdings has a fairly noticeable amount of debt. But the high interest coverage of 8.6 suggests it can easily service that debt. The bad news is that TTEC Holdings saw its EBIT decline by 17% over the last year. If earnings continue to decline at that rate then handling the debt will be more difficult than taking three children under 5 to a fancy pants restaurant. 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 TTEC Holdings can strengthen its balance sheet over time. 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 we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, TTEC Holdings produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 78% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for TTEC Holdings was the fact that it seems able to convert EBIT to free cash flow confidently. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. To be specific, it seems about as good at (not) growing its EBIT as wet socks are at keeping your feet warm. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about TTEC Holdings's debt levels. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for TTEC Holdings you should know about.

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.

What are the risks and opportunities for TTEC Holdings?

TTEC Holdings, Inc., a customer experience technology and services company, that designs, builds, orchestrates, and delivers digitally enabled customer experiences designed for various brands.

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Rewards

  • Price-To-Earnings ratio (23x) is below the IT industry average (28.5x)

  • Earnings are forecast to grow 12.39% per year

Risks

  • Profit margins (4.6%) are lower than last year (7%)

  • Has a high level of debt

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