Does Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?
Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' 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. Importantly, Emerson Electric Co. (NYSE:EMR) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. 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. 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.
Check out our latest analysis for Emerson Electric
How Much Debt Does Emerson Electric Carry?
As you can see below, at the end of September 2022, Emerson Electric had US$10.4b of debt, up from US$6.67b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. On the flip side, it has US$1.80b in cash leading to net debt of about US$8.57b.
A Look At Emerson Electric's Liabilities
The latest balance sheet data shows that Emerson Electric had liabilities of US$7.78b due within a year, and liabilities of US$11.6b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$1.80b and US$3.98b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$13.6b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Emerson Electric has a very large market capitalization of US$53.4b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.
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.
We'd say that Emerson Electric's moderate net debt to EBITDA ratio ( being 1.9), indicates prudence when it comes to debt. And its strong interest cover of 18.9 times, makes us even more comfortable. If Emerson Electric can keep growing EBIT at last year's rate of 18% over the last year, then it will find its debt load easier to manage. 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 Emerson Electric'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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Emerson Electric 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.
Happily, Emerson Electric's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. Zooming out, Emerson 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. 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 Emerson Electric (1 is concerning) you should be aware of.
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.
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