Stock Analysis

Does Ørsted (CPH:ORSTED) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

CPSE:ORSTED
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David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' 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 note that Ørsted A/S (CPH:ORSTED) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

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. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Ørsted

What Is Ørsted's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of March 2022, Ørsted had kr.50.4b of debt, up from kr.45.5b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have kr.25.3b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about kr.25.1b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
CPSE:ORSTED Debt to Equity History July 9th 2022

How Strong Is Ørsted's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Ørsted had liabilities of kr.104.7b due within 12 months and liabilities of kr.103.7b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had kr.25.3b in cash and kr.27.4b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total kr.155.7b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit isn't so bad because Ørsted is worth a massive kr.338.1b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

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.

With net debt sitting at just 1.2 times EBITDA, Ørsted is arguably pretty conservatively geared. And this view is supported by the solid interest coverage, with EBIT coming in at 9.1 times the interest expense over the last year. Better yet, Ørsted grew its EBIT by 203% last year, which is an impressive improvement. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. 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 Ørsted'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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, Ørsted saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

Based on what we've seen Ørsted is not finding it easy, given its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow, 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. It's also worth noting that Ørsted is in the Electric Utilities industry, which is often considered to be quite defensive. Looking at all this data makes us feel a little cautious about Ørsted's debt levels. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we'd suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. 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 example Ørsted has 3 warning signs (and 2 which make us uncomfortable) we think you should know about.

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.

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

Find out whether Ørsted 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.