Stock Analysis

We Think Trican Well Service (TSE:TCW) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

TSX:TCW
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The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. We note that Trican Well Service Ltd. (TSE:TCW) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

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. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

Check out our latest analysis for Trican Well Service

How Much Debt Does Trican Well Service Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at March 2022 Trican Well Service had debt of CA$5.17m, up from none in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of CA$3.98m, its net debt is less, at about CA$1.19m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:TCW Debt to Equity History June 17th 2022

How Strong Is Trican Well Service's Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Trican Well Service had liabilities of CA$114.5m falling due within a year, and liabilities of CA$15.1m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of CA$3.98m and CA$202.4m worth of receivables due within a year. So it actually has CA$76.8m more liquid assets than total liabilities.

This short term liquidity is a sign that Trican Well Service could probably pay off its debt with ease, as its balance sheet is far from stretched. Carrying virtually no net debt, Trican Well Service has a very light debt load indeed.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Trican Well Service's debt of just 0.012 times EBITDA is really very modest. And EBIT easily covered the interest expense 8.5 times over, lending force to that view. Although Trican Well Service made a loss at the EBIT level, last year, it was also good to see that it generated CA$15m in EBIT over the last twelve months. 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 Trican Well Service'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 it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. Looking at the most recent year, Trican Well Service recorded free cash flow of 36% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.

Our View

Happily, Trican Well Service's impressive net debt to EBITDA implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But, on a more sombre note, we are a little concerned by its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. All these things considered, it appears that Trican Well Service can comfortably handle its current debt levels. Of course, while this leverage can enhance returns on equity, it does bring more risk, so it's worth keeping an eye on this one. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. Case in point: We've spotted 1 warning sign for Trican Well Service 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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Trican Well Service is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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.