SolarWinds (NYSE:SWI) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet
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.’ 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 SolarWinds Corporation (NYSE:SWI) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. 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. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
Check out our latest analysis for SolarWinds
What Is SolarWinds’s Debt?
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that SolarWinds had US$1.90b in debt in March 2021; about the same as the year before. However, it does have US$374.4m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$1.53b.
How Strong Is SolarWinds’ Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that SolarWinds had liabilities of US$469.2m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.18b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$374.4m in cash and US$127.8m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$2.14b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since SolarWinds has a market capitalization of US$5.47b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.
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.
Weak interest cover of 1.7 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 7.4 hit our confidence in SolarWinds like a one-two punch to the gut. The debt burden here is substantial. Another concern for investors might be that SolarWinds’s EBIT fell 20% in the last year. If things keep going like that, handling the debt will about as easy as bundling an angry house cat into its travel box. 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 SolarWinds 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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, SolarWinds 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.
To be frank both SolarWinds’s EBIT growth rate and its track record of managing its debt, based on its EBITDA, make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least it’s pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that’s encouraging. Looking at the balance sheet and taking into account all these factors, we do believe that debt is making SolarWinds stock a bit risky. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we’d generally feel more comfortable with less leverage. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example, we’ve discovered 3 warning signs for SolarWinds (2 are significant!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
If, after all that, you’re more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.
When trading SolarWinds or any other investment, use the platform considered by many to be the Professional’s Gateway to the Worlds Market, Interactive Brokers. You get the lowest-cost* trading on stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds worldwide from a single integrated account.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
*Interactive Brokers Rated Lowest Cost Broker by StockBrokers.com Annual Online Review 2020
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.