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.’ So it seems the smart money knows that debt – which is usually involved in bankruptcies – is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. Importantly, Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest 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 Lockheed Martin

What Is Lockheed Martin’s Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2023, Lockheed Martin had US$17.5b of debt, up from US$15.5b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$1.44b, its net debt is less, at about US$16.0b.

debt-equity-history-analysis

debt-equity-history-analysis

How Healthy Is Lockheed Martin’s Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Lockheed Martin had liabilities of US$16.9b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$28.7b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$1.44b as well as receivables valued at US$15.3b due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$28.9b.

Lockheed Martin has a very large market capitalization of US$103.1b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate 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).

With a debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.6, Lockheed Martin uses debt artfully but responsibly. And the alluring interest cover (EBIT of 9.9 times interest expense) certainly does not do anything to dispel this impression. Also positive, Lockheed Martin grew its EBIT by 21% in the last year, and that should make it easier to pay down debt, going forward. 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 Lockheed Martin 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 always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Lockheed Martin recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 82% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we’d usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

Happily, Lockheed Martin’s impressive conversion of EBIT to free cash flow implies it has the upper hand on its debt. And the good news does not stop there, as its EBIT growth rate 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. While debt does bring risk, when used wisely it can also bring a higher return on equity. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. Case in point: We’ve spotted 1 warning sign for Lockheed Martin you should be aware of.

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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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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