February 6, 2023

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. As with many other companies ACI Worldwide, Inc. (NASDAQ:ACIW) makes use of debt. 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 usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
View our latest analysis for ACI Worldwide
As you can see below, ACI Worldwide had US$1.11b of debt, at June 2022, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it also had US$119.0m in cash, and so its net debt is US$990.8m.
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that ACI Worldwide had liabilities of US$845.0m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.17b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$119.0m as well as receivables valued at US$326.9m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$1.56b.
This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of US$2.37b. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.
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.
With net debt to EBITDA of 3.2 ACI Worldwide has a fairly noticeable amount of debt. On the plus side, its EBIT was 7.7 times its interest expense, and its net debt to EBITDA, was quite high, at 3.2. Importantly, ACI Worldwide grew its EBIT by 40% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine ACI Worldwide's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, ACI Worldwide generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 88% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.
ACI Worldwide's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But truth be told we feel its net debt to EBITDA does undermine this impression a bit. Looking at all the aforementioned factors together, it strikes us that ACI Worldwide can handle its debt fairly comfortably. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. We've identified 1 warning sign with ACI Worldwide , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
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 ACI Worldwide 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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ACI Worldwide, Inc., a software company, develops, markets, installs, and supports a range of software products and solutions for facilitating digital payments to banks, merchants, and billers 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.
Very undervalued with solid track record.
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.
ACI Worldwide, Inc., a software company, develops, markets, installs, and supports a range of software products and solutions for facilitating digital payments to banks, merchants, and billers 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.
Very undervalued with solid track record.
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