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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.’ 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. Importantly, Amicus Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:FOLD) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Amicus Therapeutics

What Is Amicus Therapeutics’s Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2020 Amicus Therapeutics had debt of US$389.3m, up from US$149.5m in one year. However, its balance sheet shows it holds US$483.3m in cash, so it actually has US$94.0m net cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis

A Look At Amicus Therapeutics’ Liabilities

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Amicus Therapeutics had liabilities of US$129.7m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$470.5m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$483.3m as well as receivables valued at US$46.9m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$69.9m.

Given Amicus Therapeutics has a market capitalization of US$2.57b, it’s hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. Having said that, it’s clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, Amicus Therapeutics boasts net cash, so it’s fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load! 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 Amicus Therapeutics can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you’re focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Over 12 months, Amicus Therapeutics reported revenue of US$261m, which is a gain of 43%, 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 Amicus Therapeutics?

By their very nature companies that are losing money are more risky than those with a long history of profitability. And the fact is that over the last twelve months Amicus Therapeutics lost money at the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) line. And over the same period it saw negative free cash outflow of US$237m and booked a US$277m accounting loss. But at least it has US$94.0m on the balance sheet to spend on growth, near-term. Amicus Therapeutics’s revenue growth shone bright over the last year, so it may well be in a position to turn a profit in due course. By investing before those profits, shareholders take on more risk in the hope of bigger rewards. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. 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 3 warning signs for Amicus Therapeutics you should know about.

If you’re interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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. 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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