July 14, 2024

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.' 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. As with many other companies Rent-A-Center, Inc. (NASDAQ:RCII) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
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 common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well – and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
View our latest analysis for Rent-A-Center
As you can see below, at the end of June 2022, Rent-A-Center had US$1.37b of debt, up from US$1.28b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. On the flip side, it has US$112.2m in cash leading to net debt of about US$1.26b.
The latest balance sheet data shows that Rent-A-Center had liabilities of US$492.1m due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.72b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$112.2m as well as receivables valued at US$122.6m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$1.97b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of US$1.85b, we think shareholders really should watch Rent-A-Center's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution.
We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
Rent-A-Center has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.4 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 2.7 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. Even worse, Rent-A-Center saw its EBIT tank 44% over the last 12 months. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Rent-A-Center 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.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Rent-A-Center actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.
We'd go so far as to say Rent-A-Center's EBIT growth rate was disappointing. But at least it's pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that's encouraging. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Rent-A-Center has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If everything goes well that may pay off but the downside of this debt is a greater risk of permanent losses. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 4 warning signs for Rent-A-Center you should be aware of, and 1 of them is a bit unpleasant.
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.

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Rent-A-Center, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, leases household durable goods to customers on a lease-to-own basis.
Average dividend payer 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.
Rent-A-Center, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, leases household durable goods to customers on a lease-to-own basis.
Average dividend payer 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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