Does Adtalem Global Education (NYSE:ATGE) 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.’ 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 Adtalem Global Education Inc. (NYSE:ATGE) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Adtalem Global Education

How Much Debt Does Adtalem Global Education Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Adtalem Global Education had US$696.4m in debt in December 2023; about the same as the year before. On the flip side, it has US$182.9m in cash leading to net debt of about US$513.5m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:ATGE Debt to Equity History March 13th 2024

A Look At Adtalem Global Education’s Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Adtalem Global Education had liabilities of US$398.6m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$933.0m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$182.9m as well as receivables valued at US$133.7m due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$1.01b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Adtalem Global Education has a market capitalization of US$1.96b, 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 use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Adtalem Global Education has net debt worth 1.6 times EBITDA, which isn’t too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 3.7 times the interest expense. While that doesn’t worry us too much, it does suggest the interest payments are somewhat of a burden. Adtalem Global Education grew its EBIT by 2.4% in the last year. That’s far from incredible but it is a good thing, when it comes to paying off debt. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Adtalem Global Education 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. Over the most recent three years, Adtalem Global Education recorded free cash flow worth 56% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

While Adtalem Global Education’s level of total liabilities makes us cautious about it, its track record of covering its interest expense with its EBIT is no better. But its not so bad at converting EBIT to free cash flow. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Adtalem Global Education is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. In light of our reservations about the company’s balance sheet, it seems sensible to check if insiders have been selling shares recently.

If, after all that, you’re more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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

Find out whether Adtalem Global Education 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.

link