All companies need capital to stay in business. One common way for them to gain quick access to a pile of cash is to issue debt. Given today's low-interest rate environment, issuing debt has become highly attractive. That's especially true when considering that interest expenses are deductible, which makes the after-tax cost of debt even lower.
However, companies that issue too much debt can get into deep trouble when the economy takes a turn for the worse. After all, interest must be paid in good times and in bad. That's why many small companies -- even a few large ones -- choose to avoid debt altogether.
So which companies have chosen to keep their balance sheets squeaky-clean? Here's a list of 10 well-known companies that currently sport debt-free balance sheets:
|Facebook (NASDAQ:FB)||Social Network||$503 billion|
|Accenture (NYSE:ACN)||Consulting||$97 billion|
|PayPal||Electronic Payment||$87 billion|
|Intuitive Surgical||Robotic Surgery||$41 billion|
|Monster Beverage||Energy Drinks||$36 billion|
|T. Rowe Price Group||Brokerage||$25 billion|
|Snap||Social Network||$19 billion|
|Align Technology||Dental||$18 billion|
|Skyworks Solutions||Semiconductors||$17 billion|
|Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ:ULTA)||Retail||$13 billion|
But which of these businesses are great buys today? Here's a look at my three favorites.
The top dog of social networks
With a market cap hovering around $500 billion, you might think that Facebook's days of hypergrowth are over. The company's current size is mind-boggling: More than 2 billion people log on to their Facebook account each month -- and more than 1.3 billion do so each day! That massive user base has attracted to the platform more than 6 million advertisers who are willing to pay up to get their message out. In turn, Facebook's revenue, margins, and profits have soared.
Despite the huge gains, there's ample reason to believe that Facebook's revenue and profit growth is just getting started. Consider:
- Facebook is making major investments in augmented reality and virtual reality efforts, both of which hold long-term promise.
- The company is launching Facebook Messenger Kids, which is a stand-alone product designed to make it easier for children under 13 to get on the platform.
- Management is investing heavily in content to drive viewership to its new video platform.
- Facebook's internet.org program is helping bring millions of people from rural areas online.
- Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram all boast about a billion users each and have barely been monetized.
It also doesn't hurt that Facebook was recently voted the best place to work in the U.S. That accolade should help the company attract and retain top talent.
Add it all up and it appears that Facebook would still be able to show healthy revenue and profit growth for years to come.
The go-to tech consultant
Keeping up with the latest changes in technology is no small task. At the same time, ignoring technology altogether can make even a large and established business more vulnerable to competition over the long term. These realities prompt thousands of businesses to turn to IT consultants such as those employed by Accenture for help.
Accenture employs a worldwide army of highly skilled workers that can be deployed at a moment's notice to help clients tackle a wide range of projects. Need help with security? The Internet of Things? Artificial intelligence? Blockchain? All of these areas (and more) can be handled by Accenture's well-trained team of experts.
For investors, Accenture's business model features a number of attractive benefits. For one thing, technology is always changing, so there's an ever-present need for the company's services. This helps Accenture's book-to-bill ratio -- which is a key metric for determining future growth prospects -- consistently remain above 1.
Another attribute to applaud is the company's asset-light business model. This enables Accenture to produce copious amounts of cash flow that can be used to reward shareholders. That's why the company can easily afford to make tuck-in acquisitions, buy back stock, and still pay a growing dividend.
Looking ahead, management sees a lot of growth potential for its "New" services, which encompass growth areas like digital, cloud, and security. These budding opportunities already account for more than half of total sales, and should help ensure that Accenture's revenue and profit growth remains robust over the long term.
A retail gem
Stroll through your local mall and you'll likely see a plethora of abandoned storefronts. Companies like Sears, J.C. Penney, Radio Shack, and Wet Seal have been rapidly closing stores to rightsize their footprint. With more closures on the way, it isn't hard to see why Wall Street thinks we are in a retail apocalypse.
However, Ulta Beauty is proving that consumers are still willing to open up their wallets if a retailer can provide them with an experience that can't be matched elsewhere. The company provides one-stop shopping for beauty enthusiasts who still prefer a hands-on experience.
Ulta's stores stand apart from other makeup sellers in a number of ways. For one thing, stores are staffed with non-commissioned employees who are knowledgeable but have no incentive to use high-pressure selling techniques. Ulta also has in-house salons that offer hair, skin, and manicure services -- a concept that cannot be matched by online-only rivals. Finally, the company's enormous selection -- Ulta offers more than 20,000 products from over 500 brands at a variety of price points -- rounds out the reasons customers keep coming back for more.
These factors have allowed Ulta to attract more than 26 million members to its rewards program, which provides members with discounts and promotions that help encourage repeat visits and brand loyalty.
Zooming out to the big picture, Ulta believes that there is still ample room left for store growth in the U.S. and international markets. Considering the company's booming e-commerce business and margin expansion potential, I think that Ulta looks poised to drive double-digit growth over the long term.
The Foolish bottom line
While business is currently booming at all three of these companies, we all know that the economy works in cycles. However, the fact that they all sport debt-free balance sheets should allow them to remain on the offensive throughout any downturn. That's why I think that all three of these companies are wonderful stocks to consider buying today.
Brian Feroldi owns shares of Accenture, Facebook, and Intuitive Surgical. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Align Technology, Facebook, Intuitive Surgical, Monster Beverage, PayPal Holdings, and Skyworks Solutions. The Motley Fool has the following options: short January 2018 $105 calls on Skyworks Solutions. The Motley Fool recommends Accenture and Ulta Beauty. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.