Best Buy (BBY - Get Report) is the premier retailer in the highly competitive consumer electronic industry segment. As of its most recent quarter (ended May 31, 2008), Best Buy sported nearly $1.5 billion in cash and short-term investments. The company held inventory of $5 billion versus accounts payable of $6 billion, most of which was assumed to purchase the inventory.
Best Buy's total debt (long-term plus short-term debt) was about $1.15 billion. That is down from higher levels just a few quarters ago. Best Buy continues to add new stores (they just did not far from my house in New Jersey) - primarily using current operating cash.
Macy's (M - Get Report) has expanded through the acquisition of other retailers, such as Federated Department stores and the opening of new stores. The company's balance sheet is almost the complete opposite to that of Best Buy. As of the quarter that ended May 3, 2008, Macy's total debt was nearly $9.8 billion. That said, Macy's does deserve some credit for paring down its debt by about $1 billion over the last 12 months. However, here is one of my pet peeves that Macy's violates: The company is buying back stock rather than repaying it debt at a faster pace. Inventories stood at $5.5 billion, while payables were $4.6 billion. Cash and short-term investments were negligible in comparison, at under $400 million.One final glaring item on the Macy's balance sheet is the enormous amount of goodwill it has recorded -- about $9.1 billion. Best Buy, on the other hand, had just under $1.1 billion. Goodwill is the excess of purchase price over book value that a company must assume when it makes an acquisition. The amortization of that goodwill is a charge to earnings thus impacting EPS. We are currently in the midst of a difficult economic and retail environment. A stronger balance sheet will protect a company more than a weaker one under these conditions. While shares of Best Buy have understandably declined in the past year, shares of Macy's have performed much worse. Part of that has to do with the large amount of debt that Macy's carries and has to pay debt on. Here is a comparison of the performance of both companies' stocks over the past year:
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