Does Ovintiv (TSE:OVV) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 04, 2022
TSX:OVV
Source: Shutterstock

Warren Buffett famously said, 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 Ovintiv Inc. (TSE:OVV) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Ovintiv

How Much Debt Does Ovintiv Carry?

As you can see below, Ovintiv had US$4.79b of debt at September 2021, down from US$7.14b a year prior. And it doesn't have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:OVV Debt to Equity History January 4th 2022

A Look At Ovintiv's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Ovintiv had liabilities of US$3.35b falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$6.49b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$8.00m in cash and US$1.32b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$8.51b.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$8.71b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Ovintiv's use of debt. 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.

While we wouldn't worry about Ovintiv's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.1, we think its super-low interest cover of 0.65 times is a sign of high leverage. 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. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Looking on the bright side, Ovintiv boosted its EBIT by a silky 81% in the last year. Like a mother's loving embrace of a newborn that sort of growth builds resilience, putting the company in a stronger position to manage its debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Ovintiv'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, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Ovintiv recorded free cash flow worth 76% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

Based on what we've seen Ovintiv is not finding it easy, given its interest cover, but the other factors we considered give us cause to be optimistic. There's no doubt that its ability to to grow its EBIT is pretty flash. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Ovintiv's debt levels. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Ovintiv that you should be aware of.

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

Discounted cash flow calculation for every stock

Simply Wall St does a detailed discounted cash flow calculation every 6 hours for every stock on the market, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any company just search here. It’s FREE.

Make Confident Investment Decisions

Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.