These 4 Measures Indicate That Jabil (NYSE:JBL) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

Jabil Circuit, Inc. -8.36%

Jabil Circuit, Inc.




Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies Jabil Inc. (NYSE:JBL) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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 Jabil

How Much Debt Does Jabil Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Jabil had US$2.88b in debt in November 2023; about the same as the year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$1.55b, its net debt is less, at about US$1.33b.

NYSE:JBL Debt to Equity History December 28th 2023

How Healthy Is Jabil's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Jabil had liabilities of US$13.0b due within a year, and liabilities of US$3.85b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$1.55b in cash and US$4.78b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$10.5b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit is considerable relative to its very significant market capitalization of US$16.4b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Jabil's use of debt. Should its lenders demand that it shore up the balance sheet, shareholders would likely face severe dilution.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

With net debt sitting at just 0.53 times EBITDA, Jabil is arguably pretty conservatively geared. And it boasts interest cover of 7.8 times, which is more than adequate. And we also note warmly that Jabil grew its EBIT by 11% last year, making its debt load easier to handle. 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 Jabil'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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. In the last three years, Jabil's free cash flow amounted to 40% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for Jabil was the fact that it seems able handle its debt, based on its EBITDA, confidently. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For instance it seems like it has to struggle a bit to handle its total liabilities. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Jabil's use of debt. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we'd suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. 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, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Jabil that you should be aware of before investing here.

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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