Does Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

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.’ When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We note that Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Lockheed Martin

How Much Debt Does Lockheed Martin Carry?

As you can see below, at the end of March 2024, Lockheed Martin had US$19.4b of debt, up from US$15.6b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it also had US$2.79b in cash, and so its net debt is US$16.6b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:LMT Debt to Equity History May 23rd 2024

How Strong Is Lockheed Martin’s Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Lockheed Martin had liabilities of US$17.7b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$30.6b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$2.79b in cash and US$16.3b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$29.2b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Lockheed Martin has a huge market capitalization of US$112.4b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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).

With a debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.6, Lockheed Martin uses debt artfully but responsibly. And the fact that its trailing twelve months of EBIT was 9.2 times its interest expenses harmonizes with that theme. Also good is that Lockheed Martin grew its EBIT at 18% over the last year, further increasing its ability to manage debt. 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 Lockheed Martin’s ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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 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, Lockheed Martin 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

Lockheed Martin’s conversion of EBIT to free cash flow suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14’s goalkeeper. And the good news does not stop there, as its interest cover also supports that impression! Looking at the bigger picture, we think Lockheed Martin’s use of debt seems quite reasonable and we’re not concerned about it. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. We’ve identified 2 warning signs with Lockheed Martin , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don’t even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

Valuation is complex, but we’re helping make it simple.

Find out whether Lockheed Martin is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

View the Free Analysis

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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