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.’ It’s only natural to consider a company’s balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. We can see that Thryv Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:THRY) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well – and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company’s debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is Thryv Holdings’s Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at September 2021 Thryv Holdings had debt of US$612.4m, up from US$585.8m in one year. And it doesn’t have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.
How Healthy Is Thryv Holdings’ Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Thryv Holdings had liabilities of US$320.5m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$752.5m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$10.4m in cash and US$322.2m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$740.5m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Thryv Holdings has a market capitalization of US$1.41b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it’s clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.
We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Thryv Holdings’s net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 1.8 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 3.5 times last year. While these numbers do not alarm us, it’s worth noting that the cost of the company’s debt is having a real impact. It is well worth noting that Thryv Holdings’s EBIT shot up like bamboo after rain, gaining 42% in the last twelve months. That’ll make it easier to manage its debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Thryv Holdings’s ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward.
Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Thryv Holdings 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.
The good news is that Thryv Holdings’s demonstrated ability to convert EBIT to free cash flow delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its interest cover. All these things considered, it appears that Thryv Holdings can comfortably handle its current debt levels. On the plus side, this leverage can boost shareholder returns, but the potential downside is more risk of loss, so it’s worth monitoring the balance sheet. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet.