Restaurant Brands International (NYSE:QSR) Has A Pretty Healthy Balance Sheet

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 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. As with many other companies Restaurant Brands International Inc. (NYSE:QSR) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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 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, 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.

View our latest analysis for Restaurant Brands International

How Much Debt Does Restaurant Brands International Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Restaurant Brands International had US$12.9b in debt in March 2024; about the same as the year before. However, it does have US$1.05b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$11.9b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:QSR Debt to Equity History May 22nd 2024

How Strong Is Restaurant Brands International’s Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Restaurant Brands International had liabilities of US$1.92b due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$16.4b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$1.05b in cash and US$749.0m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$16.5b.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Restaurant Brands International has a huge market capitalization of US$31.5b, 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).

Restaurant Brands International has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.9 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.8 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we’d stop short of calling them problematic. Fortunately, Restaurant Brands International grew its EBIT by 9.6% in the last year, slowly shrinking its debt relative to earnings. There’s no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Restaurant Brands International’s ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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 business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don’t cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, Restaurant Brands International produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 65% of its EBIT, about what we’d expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

Based on what we’ve seen Restaurant Brands International is not finding it easy, given its net debt to EBITDA, but the other factors we considered give us cause to be optimistic. In particular, we thought its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a positive. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Restaurant Brands International’s use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we’ve spotted 3 warning signs for Restaurant Brands International (of which 1 shouldn’t be ignored!) you should know about.

Of course, if you’re the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don’t hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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

Find out whether Restaurant Brands International 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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