CDW (NASDAQ:CDW) Has A Pretty Healthy Balance Sheet

Simply Wall St
February 16, 2022
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Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. Importantly, CDW Corporation (NASDAQ:CDW) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

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 common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for CDW

What Is CDW's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2021, CDW had US$7.31b of debt, up from US$4.45b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$258.1m, its net debt is less, at about US$7.05b.

NasdaqGS:CDW Debt to Equity History February 16th 2022

How Strong Is CDW's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that CDW had liabilities of US$5.10b due within a year, and liabilities of US$7.40b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$258.1m in cash and US$4.93b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$7.30b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit isn't so bad because CDW is worth a massive US$24.9b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up 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 measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

CDW has net debt to EBITDA of 4.5 suggesting it uses a fair bit of leverage to boost returns. But the high interest coverage of 9.8 suggests it can easily service that debt. Also relevant is that CDW has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 24% in the last year, thus enhancing its ability to pay down debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine CDW's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, CDW recorded free cash flow worth 69% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

Happily, CDW's impressive EBIT growth rate implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But the stark truth is that we are concerned by its net debt to EBITDA. Taking all this data into account, it seems to us that CDW takes a pretty sensible approach to debt. That means they are taking on a bit more risk, in the hope of boosting shareholder returns. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example - CDW has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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