The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital. It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. As with many other companies Okta, Inc. (NASDAQ:OKTA) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
What Is Okta's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at October 2019 Okta had debt of US$927.5m, up from US$268 in one year. But it also has US$1.37b in cash to offset that, meaning it has US$438.8m net cash.
A Look At Okta's Liabilities
The latest balance sheet data shows that Okta had liabilities of US$478.4m due within a year, and liabilities of US$994.0m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$1.37b and US$102.8m worth of receivables due within a year. So these liquid assets roughly match the total liabilities.
This state of affairs indicates that Okta's balance sheet looks quite solid, as its total liabilities are just about equal to its liquid assets. So it's very unlikely that the US$15.3b company is short on cash, but still worth keeping an eye on the balance sheet. While it does have liabilities worth noting, Okta also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely. 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 Okta 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.
Over 12 months, Okta reported revenue of US$534m, which is a gain of 48%, although it did not report any earnings before interest and tax. With any luck the company will be able to grow its way to profitability.
So How Risky Is Okta?
Although Okta had negative earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) over the last twelve months, it generated positive free cash flow of US$14m. So although it is loss-making, it doesn't seem to have too much near-term balance sheet risk, keeping in mind the net cash. The good news for Okta shareholders is that its revenue growth is strong, making it easier to raise capital if need be. But that doesn't change our opinion that the stock is risky. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. Like risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Okta (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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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