Nasdaq-Listed Companies

These 4 Measures Indicate That ACI Worldwide (NASDAQ:ACIW) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies ACI Worldwide, Inc. (NASDAQ:ACIW) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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 thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

What Is ACI Worldwide's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that ACI Worldwide had debt of US$1.09b at the end of September 2021, a reduction from US$1.28b over a year. On the flip side, it has US$141.5m in cash leading to net debt of about US$944.8m.

debt-equity-history-analysisNasdaqGS:ACIW Debt to Equity History November 25th 2021

A Look At ACI Worldwide's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that ACI Worldwide had liabilities of US$803.5m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.19b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$141.5m and US$299.3m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$1.55b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since ACI Worldwide has a market capitalization of US$3.75b, 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).

ACI Worldwide's debt is 4.1 times its EBITDA, and its EBIT cover its interest expense 4.9 times over. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Unfortunately, ACI Worldwide saw its EBIT slide 4.5% in the last twelve months. If that earnings trend continues then its debt load will grow heavy like the heart of a polar bear watching its sole cub. 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 ACI Worldwide 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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, ACI Worldwide actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for ACI Worldwide was the fact that it seems able to convert EBIT to free cash flow confidently. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For instance it seems like it has to struggle a bit handle its debt, based on its EBITDA,. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about ACI Worldwide's debt levels. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. Be aware that ACI Worldwide is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about...

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

In This Story

ACIW

Latest Nasdaq-Listed Companies Videos

Simply Wall St

We help you make informed decisions by giving you access to institutional quality data and analysis presented visually.

Learn More