Stock Analysis

We Think Etablissements Maurel & Prom (EPA:MAU) Can Stay On Top Of Its Debt

ENXTPA:MAU
Source: Shutterstock

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. As with many other companies Etablissements Maurel & Prom S.A. (EPA:MAU) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. 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, 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.

View our latest analysis for Etablissements Maurel & Prom

What Is Etablissements Maurel & Prom's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Etablissements Maurel & Prom had debt of US$453.4m at the end of June 2022, a reduction from US$579.0m over a year. However, it does have US$250.2m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$203.3m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
ENXTPA:MAU Debt to Equity History October 6th 2022

How Healthy Is Etablissements Maurel & Prom's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Etablissements Maurel & Prom had liabilities of US$634.8m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$328.6m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$250.2m in cash and US$178.1m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$535.2m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$882.6m, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Etablissements Maurel & Prom's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

Etablissements Maurel & Prom's net debt is only 0.50 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT covers its interest expense a whopping 18.1 times over. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. Even more impressive was the fact that Etablissements Maurel & Prom grew its EBIT by 134% over twelve months. If maintained that growth will make the debt even more manageable in the years ahead. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Etablissements Maurel & Prom can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the most recent two years, Etablissements Maurel & Prom recorded free cash flow worth 59% 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

Happily, Etablissements Maurel & Prom's impressive interest cover implies it has the upper hand on its debt. But truth be told we feel its level of total liabilities does undermine this impression a bit. When we consider the range of factors above, it looks like Etablissements Maurel & Prom is pretty sensible with its use of debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Etablissements Maurel & Prom (of which 1 can't be ignored!) you should know about.

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 Etablissements Maurel & Prom 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.

View the Free Analysis

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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.