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We Think Verra Mobility (NASDAQ:VRRM) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt
Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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, Verra Mobility Corporation (NASDAQ:VRRM) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
Check out our latest analysis for Verra Mobility
How Much Debt Does Verra Mobility Carry?
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Verra Mobility had US$1.21b in debt in December 2022; about the same as the year before. However, it also had US$107.3m in cash, and so its net debt is US$1.10b.
A Look At Verra Mobility's Liabilities
According to the last reported balance sheet, Verra Mobility had liabilities of US$186.8m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$1.34b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$107.3m in cash and US$194.6m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$1.22b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Verra Mobility has a market capitalization of US$2.51b, 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). 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).
While Verra Mobility's debt to EBITDA ratio (3.7) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 2.4, suggesting high leverage. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Looking on the bright side, Verra Mobility boosted its EBIT by a silky 32% in the last year. Like the milk of human kindness that sort of growth increases resilience, making the company more capable of managing debt. 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 Verra Mobility 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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the last three years, Verra Mobility actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.
Verra Mobility'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 we must concede we find its interest cover has the opposite effect. All these things considered, it appears that Verra Mobility can comfortably handle its current debt levels. On the plus side, this leverage can boost shareholder returns, but the potential downside is more risk of loss, so it's worth monitoring the balance sheet. 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. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Verra Mobility that you should be aware of.
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.
Verra Mobility Corporation provides smart mobility technology solutions and services in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Europe.
Solid track record and slightly overvalued.