Stock Analysis

These 4 Measures Indicate That Harmonic (NASDAQ:HLIT) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

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NasdaqGS:HLIT
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The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. We note that Harmonic Inc. (NASDAQ:HLIT) 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?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

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How Much Debt Does Harmonic Carry?

As you can see below, Harmonic had US$153.4m of debt, at April 2021, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$100.8m, its net debt is less, at about US$52.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:HLIT Debt to Equity History July 27th 2021

A Look At Harmonic's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Harmonic had liabilities of US$192.6m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$157.4m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$100.8m in cash and US$96.8m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$152.4m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Since publicly traded Harmonic shares are worth a total of US$848.1m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse.

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 Harmonic's low debt to EBITDA ratio of 0.93 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 3.8 times last year does give us pause. But the interest payments are certainly sufficient to have us thinking about how affordable its debt is. Notably, Harmonic's EBIT launched higher than Elon Musk, gaining a whopping 421% on last year. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Harmonic can strengthen its balance sheet over time. 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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. In the last two years, Harmonic's free cash flow amounted to 48% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

The good news is that Harmonic's demonstrated ability to grow its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But truth be told we feel its interest cover does undermine this impression a bit. Looking at all the aforementioned factors together, it strikes us that Harmonic can handle its debt fairly comfortably. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. 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 example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Harmonic that you should be aware of before investing here.

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.

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What are the risks and opportunities for Harmonic?

Harmonic Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provide video delivery software, products, system solutions, and services worldwide.

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Rewards

  • Earnings are forecast to grow 56.6% per year

  • Earnings grew by 112.6% over the past year

Risks

  • Shareholders have been diluted in the past year

  • Significant insider selling over the past 3 months

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