Is Integral Ad Science Holding (NASDAQ:IAS) Using Too Much Debt?

Integral Ad Science Holding Corp Ordinary Shares -1.12% Post

Integral Ad Science Holding Corp Ordinary Shares





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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. We can see that Integral Ad Science Holding Corp. (NASDAQ:IAS) does use debt in its business. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Integral Ad Science Holding

What Is Integral Ad Science Holding's Net Debt?

As you can see below, Integral Ad Science Holding had US$153.7m of debt at December 2023, down from US$223.3m a year prior. On the flip side, it has US$124.8m in cash leading to net debt of about US$29.0m.

NasdaqGS:IAS Debt to Equity History March 30th 2024

How Strong Is Integral Ad Science Holding's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Integral Ad Science Holding had liabilities of US$82.5m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$199.8m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$124.8m as well as receivables valued at US$121.2m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$36.4m.

Since publicly traded Integral Ad Science Holding shares are worth a total of US$1.59b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. But there are sufficient liabilities that we would certainly recommend shareholders continue to monitor the balance sheet, going forward.

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.

Given net debt is only 0.50 times EBITDA, it is initially surprising to see that Integral Ad Science Holding's EBIT has low interest coverage of 1.4 times. So while we're not necessarily alarmed we think that its debt is far from trivial. Importantly, Integral Ad Science Holding's EBIT fell a jaw-dropping 46% in the last twelve months. If that decline continues then paying off debt will be harder than selling foie gras at a vegan convention. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Integral Ad Science Holding can strengthen its balance sheet over time. 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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Integral Ad Science Holding actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last two years. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

We weren't impressed with Integral Ad Science Holding's interest cover, and its EBIT growth rate made us cautious. But its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was significantly redeeming. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Integral Ad Science Holding is managing its debt quite well. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example - Integral Ad Science Holding has 4 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

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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