Does TreeHouse Foods (NYSE:THS) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

TreeHouse Foods, Inc. +0.30%

TreeHouse Foods, Inc.

THS

36.74

+0.30%

The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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 TreeHouse Foods, Inc. (NYSE:THS) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for TreeHouse Foods

What Is TreeHouse Foods's Debt?

As you can see below, TreeHouse Foods had US$1.55b of debt at September 2023, down from US$1.89b a year prior. And it doesn't have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:THS Debt to Equity History December 29th 2023

How Healthy Is TreeHouse Foods' Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, TreeHouse Foods had liabilities of US$722.3m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$1.90b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of US$19.7m and US$165.5m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities total US$2.44b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's US$2.25b market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.

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). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

TreeHouse Foods has net debt to EBITDA of 4.1 suggesting it uses a fair bit of leverage to boost returns. But the high interest coverage of 8.6 suggests it can easily service that debt. Notably, TreeHouse Foods's EBIT launched higher than Elon Musk, gaining a whopping 1,152% on last year. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if TreeHouse Foods 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 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. During the last three years, TreeHouse Foods produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 50% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

TreeHouse Foods's level of total liabilities and net debt to EBITDA definitely weigh on it, in our esteem. But its EBIT growth rate tells a very different story, and suggests some resilience. We think that TreeHouse Foods's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. 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 TreeHouse Foods has 2 warning signs (and 1 which doesn't sit too well with us) we think you should know about.

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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