Stock Analysis

Does Teck Resources (TSE:TECK.B) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

TSX:TECK.B
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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.' 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, Teck Resources Limited (TSE:TECK.B) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Teck Resources

What Is Teck Resources's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of March 2021 Teck Resources had CA$7.62b of debt, an increase on CA$5.77b, over one year. On the flip side, it has CA$369.0m in cash leading to net debt of about CA$7.25b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
TSX:TECK.B Debt to Equity History June 18th 2021

How Strong Is Teck Resources' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Teck Resources had liabilities of CA$3.48b due within 12 months and liabilities of CA$17.2b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of CA$369.0m and CA$1.32b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by CA$19.0b.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's huge CA$14.2b market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution.

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). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Teck Resources has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.3 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 5.2 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. Pleasingly, Teck Resources is growing its EBIT faster than former Australian PM Bob Hawke downs a yard glass, boasting a 209% gain in the last twelve months. 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 Teck Resources 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.

Finally, a company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Teck Resources burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.

Our View

To be frank both Teck Resources's level of total liabilities and its track record of converting EBIT to free cash flow make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least it's pretty decent at growing its EBIT; that's encouraging. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Teck Resources has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. 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. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Teck Resources .

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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