We Think Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE:HII) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. -0.26% Pre

Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.

HII

275.00

275.00

-0.26%

0.00% Pre

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, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. (NYSE:HII) does carry debt. 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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Huntington Ingalls Industries

What Is Huntington Ingalls Industries's Net Debt?

As you can see below, Huntington Ingalls Industries had US$2.47b of debt at September 2023, down from US$3.00b a year prior. However, it also had US$109.0m in cash, and so its net debt is US$2.36b.

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

How Strong Is Huntington Ingalls Industries' Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Huntington Ingalls Industries had liabilities of US$2.82b due within a year, and liabilities of US$4.07b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$109.0m as well as receivables valued at US$2.18b due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$4.60b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Huntington Ingalls Industries has a huge market capitalization of US$10.3b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (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).

We'd say that Huntington Ingalls Industries's moderate net debt to EBITDA ratio ( being 2.2), indicates prudence when it comes to debt. And its strong interest cover of 10.8 times, makes us even more comfortable. Unfortunately, Huntington Ingalls Industries saw its EBIT slide 6.6% in the last twelve months. If that earnings trend continues then its debt load will grow heavy like the heart of a polar bear watching its sole cub. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Huntington Ingalls Industries 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.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Huntington Ingalls Industries produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 70% 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

Both Huntington Ingalls Industries's ability to to cover its interest expense with its EBIT and its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow gave us comfort that it can handle its debt. On the other hand, its EBIT growth rate makes us a little less comfortable about its debt. When we consider all the elements mentioned above, it seems to us that Huntington Ingalls Industries is managing its debt quite well. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. 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. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Huntington Ingalls Industries .

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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