Stock Analysis

Does Zebra Technologies (NASDAQ:ZBRA) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

NasdaqGS:ZBRA
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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, Zebra Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ:ZBRA) does carry debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Zebra Technologies

What Is Zebra Technologies's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of October 2022, Zebra Technologies had US$2.16b of debt, up from US$1.02b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had US$99.0m in cash, and so its net debt is US$2.06b.

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NasdaqGS:ZBRA Debt to Equity History February 12th 2023

How Strong Is Zebra Technologies' Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Zebra Technologies had liabilities of US$2.07b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$2.72b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of US$99.0m and US$826.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$3.87b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

Zebra Technologies has a very large market capitalization of US$16.2b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

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.

Zebra Technologies's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 1.8 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its strong interest cover of 1k times, makes us even more comfortable. Unfortunately, Zebra Technologies saw its EBIT slide 9.5% in the last twelve months. If earnings continue on that decline then managing that debt will be difficult like delivering hot soup on a unicycle. 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 Zebra Technologies 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. During the last three years, Zebra Technologies generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 91% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

Zebra Technologies's interest cover 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 EBIT growth rate. Looking at all the aforementioned factors together, it strikes us that Zebra Technologies can handle its debt fairly comfortably. 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. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Zebra Technologies you should know about.

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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Zebra Technologies is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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.