February 22, 2024

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.' 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 FMC Corporation (NYSE:FMC) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
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. 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. 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 step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
Check out our latest analysis for FMC
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that FMC had US$3.89b in debt in June 2022; about the same as the year before. However, it does have US$609.2m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$3.28b.
The latest balance sheet data shows that FMC had liabilities of US$3.99b due within a year, and liabilities of US$3.93b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$609.2m and US$2.89b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$4.42b.
This deficit isn't so bad because FMC is worth a massive US$13.3b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.
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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
FMC's net debt of 2.4 times EBITDA suggests graceful use of debt. And the alluring interest cover (EBIT of 9.2 times interest expense) certainly does not do anything to dispel this impression. One way FMC could vanquish its debt would be if it stops borrowing more but continues to grow EBIT at around 17%, as it did over the last year. 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 FMC'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, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. In the last three years, FMC's free cash flow amounted to 36% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.
Both FMC's ability to to cover its interest expense with its EBIT and its EBIT growth rate gave us comfort that it can handle its debt. On the other hand, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow makes us a little less comfortable about its debt. Considering this range of data points, we think FMC is in a good position to manage its debt levels. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for FMC that you should be aware of before investing here.
If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.
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 FMC 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.
FMC Corporation, an agricultural sciences company, provides crop protection, plant health, and professional pest and turf management products.
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.
Solid track record established dividend payer.
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.
FMC Corporation, an agricultural sciences company, provides crop protection, plant health, and professional pest and turf management products.
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.
Solid track record established dividend payer.
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.

source

About Author

Leave a Reply