Is Husky Energy (TSE:HSE) Weighed On By Its Debt Load?

Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, ‘The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about… and every practical investor I know worries about. When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies Husky Energy Inc. (TSE:HSE) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of ‘creative destruction’ where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Husky Energy

How Much Debt Does Husky Energy Carry?

As you can see below, Husky Energy had CA$5.52b of debt, at December 2019, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it also had CA$1.78b in cash, and so its net debt is CA$3.75b.

TSX:HSE Historical Debt, March 13th 2020
TSX:HSE Historical Debt, March 13th 2020

How Strong Is Husky Energy’s Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Husky Energy had liabilities of CA$4.64b due within a year, and liabilities of CA$11.2b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of CA$1.78b and CA$1.49b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CA$12.6b.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the CA$2.88b company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Husky Energy would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today. 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 Husky Energy can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Over 12 months, Husky Energy made a loss at the EBIT level, and saw its revenue drop to CA$20b, which is a fall of 10%. That’s not what we would hope to see.

Caveat Emptor

While Husky Energy’s falling revenue is about as heartwarming as a wet blanket, arguably its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss is even less appealing. Indeed, it lost a very considerable CA$2.4b at the EBIT level. Combining this information with the significant liabilities we already touched on makes us very hesitant about this stock, to say the least. Of course, it may be able to improve its situation with a bit of luck and good execution. Nevertheless, we would not bet on it given that it vaporized CA$638m in cash over the last twelve months, and it doesn’t have much by way of liquid assets. So we consider this a high risk stock and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if the company asks shareholders for money before long. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet – far from it. Be aware that Husky Energy is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about…

Of course, if you’re the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don’t hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.