Australia markets closed
  • ALL ORDS

    6,784.30
    -33.80 (-0.50%)
     
  • AUD/USD

    0.6796
    -0.0004 (-0.05%)
     
  • ASX 200

    6,594.50
    -34.80 (-0.52%)
     
  • OIL

    100.15
    +0.65 (+0.65%)
     
  • GOLD

    1,760.80
    -3.10 (-0.18%)
     
  • BTC-AUD

    29,537.91
    +246.26 (+0.84%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    434.81
    -5.22 (-1.19%)
     

We Think ServiceNow (NYSE:NOW) Can Manage Its Debt With Ease

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

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.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies ServiceNow, Inc. (NYSE:NOW) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. 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 step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for ServiceNow

What Is ServiceNow's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that ServiceNow had US$1.58b in debt in December 2021; about the same as the year before. However, it does have US$3.30b in cash offsetting this, leading to net cash of US$1.73b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
debt-equity-history-analysis

How Healthy Is ServiceNow's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that ServiceNow had liabilities of US$4.95b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.15b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$3.30b in cash and US$1.40b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.40b.

Of course, ServiceNow has a titanic market capitalization of US$101.5b, 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. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, ServiceNow boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

Another good sign is that ServiceNow has been able to increase its EBIT by 29% in twelve months, making it easier to pay down debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine ServiceNow'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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. While ServiceNow 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. Over the last three years, ServiceNow actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

Summing up

While it is always sensible to look at a company's total liabilities, it is very reassuring that ServiceNow has US$1.73b in net cash. The cherry on top was that in converted 811% of that EBIT to free cash flow, bringing in US$1.8b. So is ServiceNow's debt a risk? It doesn't seem so to us. 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. We've identified 1 warning sign with ServiceNow , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting