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. We can see that Enphase Energy, Inc. (NASDAQ:ENPH) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Enphase Energy Carry?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2022 Enphase Energy had US$1.29b of debt, an increase on US$1.01b, over one year. On the flip side, it has US$1.25b in cash leading to net debt of about US$38.4m.
How Strong Is Enphase Energy's Balance Sheet?
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Enphase Energy had liabilities of US$480.0m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$1.51b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$1.25b and US$339.0m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$399.3m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Having regard to Enphase Energy's size, it seems that its liquid assets are well balanced with its total liabilities. So while it's hard to imagine that the US$38.7b company is struggling for cash, we still think it's worth monitoring its balance sheet. Carrying virtually no net debt, Enphase Energy has a very light debt load indeed.
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).
Enphase Energy has net debt of just 0.13 times EBITDA, indicating that it is certainly not a reckless borrower. And it boasts interest cover of 9.0 times, which is more than adequate. While Enphase Energy doesn't seem to have gained much on the EBIT line, at least earnings remain stable for now. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Enphase Energy'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 we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Enphase Energy actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.
Happily, Enphase Energy's impressive conversion of EBIT to free cash flow implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And the good news does not stop there, as its net debt to EBITDA also supports that impression! Looking at the bigger picture, we think Enphase Energy's use of debt seems quite reasonable and we're not concerned about it. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns 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. We've identified 2 warning signs with Enphase Energy , 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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