Warren Buffett famously said, '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. We note that Fastly, Inc. (NYSE:FSLY) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Fastly's Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2021 Fastly had US$931.4m of debt, an increase on US$20.1m, over one year. However, it also had US$929.7m in cash, and so its net debt is US$1.66m.
How Healthy Is Fastly's Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Fastly had liabilities of US$103.0m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.00b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$929.7m as well as receivables valued at US$56.1m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$122.0m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Given Fastly has a market capitalization of US$4.90b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward. Carrying virtually no net debt, Fastly has a very light debt load indeed. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Fastly 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.
Over 12 months, Fastly reported revenue of US$323m, which is a gain of 31%, although it did not report any earnings before interest and tax. With any luck the company will be able to grow its way to profitability.
Despite the top line growth, Fastly still had an earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss over the last year. To be specific the EBIT loss came in at US$165m. When we look at that and recall the liabilities on its balance sheet, relative to cash, it seems unwise to us for the company to have any debt. Quite frankly we think the balance sheet is far from match-fit, although it could be improved with time. However, it doesn't help that it burned through US$69m of cash over the last year. So suffice it to say we do consider the stock to be risky. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for Fastly 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.
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.
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