David Iben put it well when he said, ‘Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.’ So it seems the smart money knows that debt – which is usually involved in bankruptcies – is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies Focusrite plc (LON:TUNE) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
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. Ultimately, if the company can’t fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. The first step when considering a company’s debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
Check out our latest analysis for Focusrite
What Is Focusrite’s Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at August 2022 Focusrite had debt of UK£13.1m, up from in one year. However, it also had UK£12.8m in cash, and so its net debt is UK£296.0k.
How Strong Is Focusrite’s Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Focusrite had liabilities of UK£54.2m falling due within a year, and liabilities of UK£18.0m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of UK£12.8m and UK£27.6m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total UK£31.8m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Since publicly traded Focusrite shares are worth a total of UK£435.1m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward. But either way, Focusrite has virtually no net debt, so it’s fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!
In order to size up a company’s debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Focusrite has very little debt (net of cash), and boasts a debt to EBITDA ratio of 0.0088 and EBIT of 490 times the interest expense. So relative to past earnings, the debt load seems trivial. But the bad news is that Focusrite has seen its EBIT plunge 15% in the last twelve months. We think hat kind of performance, if repeated frequently, could well lead to difficulties for the stock. 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 Focusrite 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 we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, Focusrite produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 68% of its EBIT, about what we’d expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
The good news is that Focusrite’s demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But we must concede we find its EBIT growth rate has the opposite effect. All these things considered, it appears that Focusrite 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. 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. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we’ve spotted with Focusrite .
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.
Valuation is complex, but we’re helping make it simple.
Find out whether Focusrite 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.
View the Free Analysis
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
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.