Perficient (NASDAQ:PRFT) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

Perficient, Inc. +2.66%

Perficient, Inc.

PRFT

44.80

+2.66%

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 might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. Importantly, Perficient, Inc. (NASDAQ:PRFT) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Perficient

What Is Perficient's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Perficient had US$396.9m in debt in December 2023; about the same as the year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$128.9m, its net debt is less, at about US$268.0m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:PRFT Debt to Equity History March 28th 2024

How Healthy Is Perficient's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Perficient had liabilities of US$78.5m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$455.5m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$128.9m in cash and US$184.8m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$220.3m.

Given Perficient has a market capitalization of US$1.90b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.

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.

We'd say that Perficient's moderate net debt to EBITDA ratio ( being 1.7), indicates prudence when it comes to debt. And its commanding EBIT of 363 times its interest expense, implies the debt load is as light as a peacock feather. On the other hand, Perficient's EBIT dived 11%, over the last year. If that rate of decline in earnings continues, the company could find itself in a tight spot. 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 Perficient 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 we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Perficient generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 82% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Our View

Perficient's interest cover suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. But the stark truth is that we are concerned by its EBIT growth rate. All these things considered, it appears that Perficient 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. 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. For example - Perficient has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

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.

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