We Think Daseke (NASDAQ:DSKE) In Taking Some Risk With Its Debt

Warren Buffett famously said, ‘Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.’ 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, Daseke, Inc. (NASDAQ:DSKE) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. Ultimately, if the company can’t fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Daseke

What Is Daseke’s Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of March 2019, Daseke had US$695.3m of debt, up from US$614.0m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had US$62.4m in cash, and so its net debt is US$632.9m.

NasdaqCM:DSKE Historical Debt, July 24th 2019
NasdaqCM:DSKE Historical Debt, July 24th 2019

How Strong Is Daseke’s Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Daseke had liabilities of US$233.3m due within a year, and liabilities of US$828.9m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$62.4m and US$218.1m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$781.7m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit casts a shadow over the US$237.0m company, like a colossus towering over mere mortals. So we’d watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt At the end of the day, Daseke would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment. Since Daseke does have net debt, we think it is worthwhile for shareholders to keep an eye on the balance sheet, over time.

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.

While Daseke’s debt to EBITDA ratio (3.74) suggests that it uses debt fairly modestly, its interest cover is very weak, at 0.59. In large part that’s due to the company’s significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Looking on the bright side, Daseke boosted its EBIT by a silky 51% in the last year. Like a mother’s loving embrace of a newborn that sort of growth builds resilience, putting the company in a stronger position to manage its 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 Daseke’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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it’s worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Daseke actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There’s nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders’ good graces.

Our View

While Daseke’s level of total liabilities has us nervous. To wit both its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and EBIT growth rate were encouraging signs. Taking the abovementioned factors together we do think Daseke’s debt poses some risks to the business. While that debt can boost returns, we think the company has enough leverage now. Given our hesitation about the stock, it would be good to know if Daseke insiders have sold any shares recently. You click here to find out if insiders have sold recently.

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.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.