Is Dycom Industries (NYSE:DY) A Risky Investment?

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.’ 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 can see that Dycom Industries, Inc. (NYSE:DY) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well – and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company’s debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Dycom Industries

What Is Dycom Industries’s Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Dycom Industries had US$808.9m in debt in January 2024; about the same as the year before. On the flip side, it has US$121.3m in cash leading to net debt of about US$687.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:DY Debt to Equity History March 22nd 2024

How Healthy Is Dycom Industries’ Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Dycom Industries had liabilities of US$506.3m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$955.9m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$121.3m in cash and US$1.30b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$42.2m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Having regard to Dycom Industries’ size, it seems that its liquid assets are well balanced with its total liabilities. So it’s very unlikely that the US$4.11b company is short on cash, but still worth keeping an eye on the balance sheet.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

While Dycom Industries’s low debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.4 suggests only modest use of debt, the fact that EBIT only covered the interest expense by 6.1 times last year does give us pause. So we’d recommend keeping a close eye on the impact financing costs are having on the business. On top of that, Dycom Industries grew its EBIT by 54% over the last twelve months, and that growth will make it easier to handle its debt. 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 Dycom Industries 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 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. In the last three years, Dycom Industries’s free cash flow amounted to 25% of its EBIT, less than we’d expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

Dycom Industries’s EBIT growth rate suggests it can handle its debt as easily as Cristiano Ronaldo could score a goal against an under 14’s goalkeeper. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like Dycom Industries is pretty sensible with its use of debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. 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 1 warning sign for Dycom Industries you should know about.

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.

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

Find out whether Dycom Industries 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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