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Is Perficient (NASDAQ:PRFT) Using Too Much Debt?

Simply Wall St

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.' 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. As with many other companies Perficient, Inc. ( NASDAQ:PRFT ) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Perficient

What Is Perficient's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2019 Perficient had US$122.3m of debt, an increase on US$56.0m, over one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$34.3m, its net debt is less, at about US$88.1m.

NasdaqGS:PRFT Historical Debt, August 12th 2019

How Strong Is Perficient's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Perficient had liabilities of US$74.0m due within a year, and liabilities of US$171.6m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$34.3m in cash and US$122.8m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$88.6m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Of course, Perficient has a market capitalization of US$1.16b, so these liabilities are probably manageable. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.

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.

With net debt sitting at just 1.3 times EBITDA, Perficient is arguably pretty conservatively geared. And it boasts interest cover of 7.4 times, which is more than adequate. Another good sign is that Perficient has been able to increase its EBIT by 27% in twelve months, making it easier to pay down debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Perficient'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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, Perficient actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

Perficient's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14's goalkeeper. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its EBIT growth rate is also very heartening. Looking at the bigger picture, we think Perficient's use of debt seems quite reasonable and we're not concerned about it. After all, sensible leverage can boost returns on equity. Another factor that would give us confidence in Perficient would be if insiders have been buying shares: if you're conscious of that signal too, you can find out instantly by clicking this link .

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free , right now.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com . This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.