May 23, 2024

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 note that Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (EBR:ABI) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
Check out our latest analysis for Anheuser-Busch InBev
As you can see below, Anheuser-Busch InBev had US$81.1b of debt at June 2022, down from US$88.3b a year prior. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$7.36b, its net debt is less, at about US$73.7b.
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Anheuser-Busch InBev had liabilities of US$30.9b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$98.8b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$7.36b as well as receivables valued at US$5.83b due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$116.5b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's massive market capitalization of US$91.3b, we think shareholders really should watch Anheuser-Busch InBev's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.
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.
Anheuser-Busch InBev has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.2 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.7 times. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Fortunately, Anheuser-Busch InBev grew its EBIT by 4.6% in the last year, slowly shrinking its debt relative to earnings. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Anheuser-Busch InBev'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, Anheuser-Busch InBev produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 54% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.
To be frank both Anheuser-Busch InBev's net debt to EBITDA and its track record of staying on top of its total liabilities make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Anheuser-Busch InBev has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Anheuser-Busch InBev you should be aware of, and 1 of them shouldn't be ignored.
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.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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 Anheuser-Busch InBev 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.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV engages in the production, distribution, and sale of beer, alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks worldwide.
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.
Good value with moderate growth potential.
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.
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV engages in the production, distribution, and sale of beer, alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks worldwide.
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.
Good value with moderate growth potential.
Simply Wall Street Pty Ltd (ACN 600 056 611), is a Corporate Authorised Representative (Authorised Representative Number: 467183) of Sanlam Private Wealth Pty Ltd (AFSL No. 337927). Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should not rely on any advice and/or information contained in this website and before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice. Please read our Financial Services Guide before deciding whether to obtain financial services from us.

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