Belden (NYSE:BDC) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 17, 2022
NYSE:BDC
Source: Shutterstock

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. We can see that Belden Inc. (NYSE:BDC) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

View our latest analysis for Belden

What Is Belden's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Belden had debt of US$1.46b at the end of December 2021, a reduction from US$1.57b over a year. On the flip side, it has US$643.8m in cash leading to net debt of about US$816.2m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:BDC Debt to Equity History February 17th 2022

A Look At Belden's Liabilities

According to the last reported balance sheet, Belden had liabilities of US$718.5m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$1.74b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of US$643.8m and US$412.2m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$1.41b.

This deficit isn't so bad because Belden is worth US$2.57b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Belden's net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 2.2 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 4.6 times last year. While that doesn't worry us too much, it does suggest the interest payments are somewhat of a burden. Notably, Belden's EBIT launched higher than Elon Musk, gaining a whopping 110% on last year. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Belden 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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Belden recorded free cash flow worth 65% 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

Belden's EBIT growth rate 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. All these things considered, it appears that Belden can comfortably handle its current debt levels. 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. 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. We've identified 2 warning signs with Belden (at least 1 which shouldn't be ignored) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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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