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These 4 Measures Indicate That Schneider Electric Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

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These 4 Measures Indicate That Schneider Electric Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

November 02
22:52 2019

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. Importantly, Schneider Electric S.E. (EPA:SU) does carry debt. 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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

What Is Schneider Electric’s Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Schneider Electric had debt of €8.58b at the end of June 2019, a reduction from €9.31b over a year. However, it does have €2.53b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about €6.05b.

How Healthy Is Schneider Electric’s Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Schneider Electric had liabilities of €10.7b due within 12 months, and liabilities of €11.7b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of €2.53b as well as receivables valued at €7.99b due within 12 months. So its liabilities total €11.9b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit isn’t so bad because Schneider Electric is worth a massive €45.5b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. 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).

Schneider Electric has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.3. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 23.6 times over. So we’re pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. Fortunately, Schneider Electric grew its EBIT by 7.3% in the last year, making that debt load look even more manageable. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Schneider Electric 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, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Schneider Electric recorded free cash flow worth 63% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

About Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems. We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global Ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest Partner, Integrator and Developer Community on our Open Platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company and that our commitment to Innovation, Diversity and Sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment.

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