Is Fastenal (NASDAQ:FAST) Using Too Much Debt?
David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. As with many other companies Fastenal Company (NASDAQ:FAST) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
What Is Fastenal's Debt?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Fastenal had US$260.0m of debt in September 2023, down from US$555.0m, one year before. However, it does have US$297.5m in cash offsetting this, leading to net cash of US$37.5m.
How Strong Is Fastenal's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Fastenal had liabilities of US$667.9m due within a year, and liabilities of US$462.1m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$297.5m as well as receivables valued at US$1.17b due within 12 months. So it actually has US$338.5m more liquid assets than total liabilities.
This state of affairs indicates that Fastenal's balance sheet looks quite solid, as its total liabilities are just about equal to its liquid assets. So while it's hard to imagine that the US$32.9b company is struggling for cash, we still think it's worth monitoring its balance sheet. Succinctly put, Fastenal boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!
Fortunately, Fastenal grew its EBIT by 6.1% 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 Fastenal 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. While Fastenal has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. During the last three years, Fastenal produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 63% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.
While we empathize with investors who find debt concerning, you should keep in mind that Fastenal has net cash of US$37.5m, as well as more liquid assets than liabilities. So is Fastenal's debt a risk? It doesn't seem so to us. Of course, we wouldn't say no to the extra confidence that we'd gain if we knew that Fastenal insiders have been buying shares: if you're on the same wavelength, you can find out if insiders are buying by clicking this link.
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.
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.