Is Advantage Solutions (NASDAQ:ADV) A Risky Investment?


Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that ‘Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.’ 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 Advantage Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ:ADV) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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.

View our latest analysis for Advantage Solutions

How Much Debt Does Advantage Solutions Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Advantage Solutions had debt of US$1.87b at the end of December 2023, a reduction from US$2.04b over a year. On the flip side, it has US$152.8m in cash leading to net debt of about US$1.71b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NasdaqGS:ADV Debt to Equity History April 22nd 2024

How Strong Is Advantage Solutions’ Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Advantage Solutions had liabilities of US$541.3m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$2.13b due beyond 12 months. On the other hand, it had cash of US$152.8m and US$714.2m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$1.81b.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company’s market capitalization of US$1.39b, we think shareholders really should watch Advantage Solutions’s debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution.

In order to size up a company’s debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

While Advantage Solutions’s debt to EBITDA ratio (4.6) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 0.88, suggesting high leverage. It seems that the business incurs large depreciation and amortisation charges, so maybe its debt load is heavier than it would first appear, since EBITDA is arguably a generous measure of earnings. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Another concern for investors might be that Advantage Solutions’s EBIT fell 11% in the last year. If that’s the way things keep going handling the debt load will be like delivering hot coffees on a pogo stick. 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 Advantage Solutions 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Advantage Solutions 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.

Our View

To be frank both Advantage Solutions’s level of total liabilities and its track record of covering its interest expense with its EBIT make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least it’s pretty decent at converting EBIT to free cash flow; that’s encouraging. We’re quite clear that we consider Advantage Solutions to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. For this reason we’re pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. 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 Advantage Solutions 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.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *