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. Importantly, Extreme Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXTR) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Extreme Networks Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Extreme Networks had debt of US$310.5m at the end of March 2022, a reduction from US$345.0m over a year. However, it also had US$167.4m in cash, and so its net debt is US$143.1m.
A Look At Extreme Networks' Liabilities
The latest balance sheet data shows that Extreme Networks had liabilities of US$457.8m due within a year, and liabilities of US$467.8m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$167.4m in cash and US$163.0m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$595.2m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Extreme Networks has a market capitalization of US$1.22b, 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 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). 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 Extreme Networks's low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.2 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 5.7 times last year does give us pause. So we'd recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. Pleasingly, Extreme Networks is growing its EBIT faster than former Australian PM Bob Hawke downs a yard glass, boasting a 304% gain in the last twelve months. 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 Extreme Networks 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. Happily for any shareholders, Extreme Networks actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last two years. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.
Extreme Networks'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, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its level of total liabilities. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like Extreme Networks is pretty sensible with its use of debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. 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 3 warning signs for Extreme Networks that you should be aware of.
If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.
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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.