Australia markets closed
  • ALL ORDS

    6,678.70
    -81.90 (-1.21%)
     
  • ASX 200

    6,474.20
    -80.80 (-1.23%)
     
  • AUD/USD

    0.6406
    -0.0098 (-1.51%)
     
  • OIL

    79.74
    -1.49 (-1.83%)
     
  • GOLD

    1,668.30
    -0.30 (-0.02%)
     
  • BTC-AUD

    30,101.91
    -859.51 (-2.78%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    443.49
    +0.06 (+0.01%)
     
  • AUD/EUR

    0.6531
    -0.0085 (-1.28%)
     
  • AUD/NZD

    1.1439
    +0.0099 (+0.88%)
     
  • NZX 50

    11,065.71
    -134.33 (-1.20%)
     
  • NASDAQ

    10,971.22
    -193.56 (-1.73%)
     
  • FTSE

    6,893.81
    +12.22 (+0.18%)
     
  • Dow Jones

    28,725.51
    -500.10 (-1.71%)
     
  • DAX

    12,114.36
    +138.81 (+1.16%)
     
  • Hang Seng

    17,222.83
    +56.96 (+0.33%)
     
  • NIKKEI 225

    25,937.21
    -484.84 (-1.83%)
     

Is uniQure (NASDAQ:QURE) Using Too Much Debt?

·4-min read

Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. We note that uniQure N.V. (NASDAQ:QURE) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. 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. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for uniQure

What Is uniQure's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of March 2022, uniQure had US$101.4m of debt, up from US$70.5m a year ago. Click the image for more detail. But on the other hand it also has US$524.9m in cash, leading to a US$423.5m net cash position.

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

A Look At uniQure's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that uniQure had liabilities of US$44.7m due within a year, and liabilities of US$166.4m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$524.9m in cash and US$38.6m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it actually has US$352.4m more liquid assets than total liabilities.

This excess liquidity is a great indication that uniQure's balance sheet is almost as strong as Fort Knox. With this in mind one could posit that its balance sheet means the company is able to handle some adversity. Succinctly put, uniQure boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!

Although uniQure made a loss at the EBIT level, last year, it was also good to see that it generated US$304m in EBIT over the last twelve months. 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 uniQure's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. uniQure may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. During the last year, uniQure generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 94% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.

Summing up

While we empathize with investors who find debt concerning, you should keep in mind that uniQure has net cash of US$423.5m, as well as more liquid assets than liabilities. The cherry on top was that in converted 94% of that EBIT to free cash flow, bringing in US$286m. So is uniQure'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. For example uniQure has 3 warning signs (and 1 which shouldn't be ignored) we think you should know about.

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.