What is Net Debt?
Net Debt is a liquidity measure that determines how much debt a company has on its balance sheet relative to its cash on hand.
Conceptually, net debt is the amount of debt remaining once a company hypothetically paid down as much debt as possible using its highly-liquid assets, namely cash.
- What does the net debt of a company represent?
- Which formula calculates a company’s net debt?
- When calculating enterprise value, why do we add net debt?
- Which types of companies carry negative net debt balances?
Table of Contents
How to Calculate Net Debt
The net debt of a company represents the remaining debt balance once the company’s cash is used to help pay down as much debt as possible.
Frequently used to determine the liquidity of a company, the net debt metric shows the remaining debt balance if all of a company’s cash and cash equivalents were hypothetically used to pay down its outstanding debt obligations.
The underlying idea behind net debt is that the cash sitting on a company’s balance sheet could hypothetically be used to pay down outstanding debt if necessary.
Since the assumption is that the cash helps offset the debt burden, the value of a company’s cash and cash equivalents are deducted from the gross debt.
Calculating net debt consists of two steps:
- Calculate the Sum of All Debt and Interest-Bearing Obligations
- Subtract Cash and Cash-Equivalents
Net Debt Formula
The formula for calculating net debt is as follows.
Net Debt Formula
- Net Debt = Total Debt – Cash & Cash Equivalents
- Debt Component → Comprises all short-term and long-term debt obligations, such as short-term and long-term loans and bonds — as well as financial claims such as preferred stock and non-controlling interests.
- Cash Component → Contains all cash and highly liquid investments — which refer to short-term holdings such as marketable securities, money market funds, and commercial paper.
Interpreting Negative Net Debt – Good or Bad?
If the net debt of a company is negative, this suggests the company has a significant amount of cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet.
Additionally, the negative balance could be an indication the company is not financed with an excessive amount of debt.
In contrast, it could also just mean the company is holding onto more cash in comparison to debt (e.g. Microsoft, Apple).
Therefore, companies that have accumulated large cash reserves will have a higher equity value than enterprise value.
Net Debt Calculator – Excel Template
We’ll now move to a modeling exercise, which you can access by filling out the form below.
Net Debt Example Calculation
Here, our hypothetical company has the following financials in Year 0:
- Short-Term Borrowings: $40m
- Long-Term Debt: $60m
- Cash & Cash Equivalents: $25m
- Marketable Securities: $15m
For each period in the forecast, all debt and debt-equivalents are assumed to remain constant. Cash and marketable securities, on the other hand, are going to grow by $5m per year.
Given the growth in cash & cash equivalents, while the debt amount remains constant, it would be reasonable to expect the company’s net debt to decrease each year.
For Year 1, the net debt calculation is as follows:
- Total Debt = $40m Short-Term Borrowings + $60m Long-Term Debt = $100m
- Less: Cash & Cash Equivalents = $30m Cash + $20m Marketable Securities
- Net Debt = $100m in Total Debt – $50m Cash & Cash Equivalents = $50m
Net Debt-to-EBITDA Ratio Calculation
For our EBITDA assumption, we’ll be using $30m for each period in the forecast.
Since cash can be used to pay down debt, many leverage ratios use net debt rather than the gross amount, as one could argue that net debt is a more accurate representation of the company’s “true” leverage.
From the completed output below, we can see how the net debt / EBITDA ratio declines from 2.0x in Year 0 to 0.3x by the end of Year 5, which is driven by the accumulation of highly liquid, cash-like assets.
But in the same time span, our total debt / EBITDA ratio remains constant at 3.3x as it does not take into account the growth in cash & cash equivalents.