Here's Why Worley (ASX:WOR) Has A Meaningful Debt Burden

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 02, 2021
ASX:WOR
Source: Shutterstock

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. Importantly, Worley Limited (ASX:WOR) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Worley

What Is Worley's Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Worley had AU$1.75b of debt in June 2021, down from AU$1.85b, one year before. However, it also had AU$522.0m in cash, and so its net debt is AU$1.23b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ASX:WOR Debt to Equity History December 3rd 2021

A Look At Worley's Liabilities

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Worley had liabilities of AU$2.44b due within 12 months and liabilities of AU$2.11b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of AU$522.0m as well as receivables valued at AU$2.01b due within 12 months. So its liabilities total AU$2.01b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Worley has a market capitalization of AU$5.29b, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

Worley has net debt worth 2.4 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 4.7 times the interest expense. While these numbers do not alarm us, it's worth noting that the cost of the company's debt is having a real impact. Importantly, Worley's EBIT fell a jaw-dropping 44% in the last twelve months. If that earnings trend continues then paying off its debt will be about as easy as herding cats on to a roller coaster. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Worley's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Over the last three years, Worley actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

Neither Worley's ability to grow its EBIT nor its net debt to EBITDA gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But the good news is it seems to be able to convert EBIT to free cash flow with ease. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Worley is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for Worley you should be aware of.

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.

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