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 might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. As with many other companies Franklin Electric Co., Inc. (NASDAQ:FELE) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
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. 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. 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.
Check out our latest analysis for Franklin Electric
How Much Debt Does Franklin Electric Carry?
As you can see below, Franklin Electric had US$248.5m of debt at June 2023, down from US$312.9m a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$53.2m, its net debt is less, at about US$195.3m.
A Look At Franklin Electric's Liabilities
According to the last reported balance sheet, Franklin Electric had liabilities of US$432.7m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$220.0m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$53.2m as well as receivables valued at US$299.5m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$300.0m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Given Franklin Electric has a market capitalization of US$4.18b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse.
We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Franklin Electric's net debt is only 0.61 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 18.4 times over. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Also good is that Franklin Electric grew its EBIT at 17% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. 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 Franklin Electric 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 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 most recent three years, Franklin Electric recorded free cash flow worth 51% 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.
Franklin Electric's interest cover suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. And the good news does not stop there, as its net debt to EBITDA also supports that impression! Zooming out, Franklin Electric seems to use debt quite reasonably; and that gets the nod from us. While debt does bring risk, when used wisely it can also bring a higher return on equity. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. 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 1 warning sign for Franklin Electric you should know about.
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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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.