- United States
Is United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS) A Risky Investment?
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.' 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 note that United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
See our latest analysis for United Parcel Service
What Is United Parcel Service's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that United Parcel Service had debt of US$21.4b at the end of March 2022, a reduction from US$23.4b over a year. However, it also had US$12.5b in cash, and so its net debt is US$8.89b.
How Strong Is United Parcel Service's Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, United Parcel Service had liabilities of US$16.8b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$37.8b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of US$12.5b and US$11.6b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$30.6b.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since United Parcel Service has a huge market capitalization of US$149.4b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. 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). 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).
United Parcel Service has a low debt to EBITDA ratio of only 0.54. And remarkably, despite having net debt, it actually received more in interest over the last twelve months than it had to pay. So there's no doubt this company can take on debt while staying cool as a cucumber. In addition to that, we're happy to report that United Parcel Service has boosted its EBIT by 87%, thus reducing the spectre of future debt repayments. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine United Parcel Service'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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, United Parcel Service recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 83% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
The good news is that United Parcel Service's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. Overall, we don't think United Parcel Service is taking any bad risks, as its debt load seems modest. So the balance sheet looks pretty healthy, to us. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for United Parcel Service that you should be aware of.
If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.
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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.
United Parcel Service
United Parcel Service, Inc., a package delivery company, provides transportation and delivery, distribution, contract logistics, ocean freight, airfreight, customs brokerage, and insurance services.
Established dividend payer with proven track record.