December 2, 2022

The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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 Computacenter plc (LON:CCC) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
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 frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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 thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
View our latest analysis for Computacenter
As you can see below, Computacenter had UK£39.7m of debt at June 2022, down from UK£42.3m a year prior. But it also has UK£199.0m in cash to offset that, meaning it has UK£159.3m net cash.
According to the last reported balance sheet, Computacenter had liabilities of UK£1.84b due within 12 months, and liabilities of UK£172.2m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had UK£199.0m in cash and UK£1.54b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total UK£272.4m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.
Of course, Computacenter has a market capitalization of UK£2.27b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Computacenter boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!
The good news is that Computacenter has increased its EBIT by 3.7% over twelve months, which should ease any concerns about debt repayment. 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 Computacenter 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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. While Computacenter has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. During the last three years, Computacenter generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 88% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
While Computacenter does have more liabilities than liquid assets, it also has net cash of UK£159.3m. And it impressed us with free cash flow of UK£203m, being 88% of its EBIT. So we don't think Computacenter's use of debt is 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 Computacenter is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , you should know about…
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.
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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.
Find out whether Computacenter is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.
Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
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Computacenter plc provides information technology (IT) infrastructure and operations services in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, North America, and internationally.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Very undervalued with flawless balance sheet and pays a dividend.
Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.
Computacenter plc provides information technology (IT) infrastructure and operations services in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, North America, and internationally.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Very undervalued with flawless balance sheet and pays a dividend.
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