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.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. We can see that Enerflex Ltd. (TSE:EFX) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Enerflex Carry?
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Enerflex had CA$346.0m in debt in June 2022; about the same as the year before. However, it also had CA$147.1m in cash, and so its net debt is CA$198.9m.
A Look At Enerflex's Liabilities
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Enerflex had liabilities of CA$428.8m due within 12 months and liabilities of CA$485.2m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of CA$147.1m and CA$422.5m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CA$344.4m.
This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of CA$518.4m. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.
In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.
Enerflex's net debt is sitting at a very reasonable 1.6 times its EBITDA, while its EBIT covered its interest expense just 3.7 times last year. In large part that's due to the company's significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. Shareholders should be aware that Enerflex's EBIT was down 26% last year. If that decline continues then paying off debt will be harder than selling foie gras at a vegan convention. 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 Enerflex's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. In the last three years, Enerflex created free cash flow amounting to 12% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. That limp level of cash conversion undermines its ability to manage and pay down debt.
Mulling over Enerflex's attempt at (not) growing its EBIT, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But at least it's pretty decent at managing its debt, based on its EBITDA,; that's encouraging. We're quite clear that we consider Enerflex to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. While Enerflex didn't make a statutory profit in the last year, its positive EBIT suggests that profitability might not be far away. Click here to see if its earnings are heading in the right direction, over the medium term.
When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
Enerflex Ltd. supplies natural gas compression, oil and gas processing, refrigeration systems, energy transition solutions, and electric power generation equipment to the oil and natural gas industry.
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Flawless balance sheet and good value.