Is Hunting (LON:HTG) A Risky Investment?

Simply Wall St
October 28, 2021
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Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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. Importantly, Hunting PLC (LON:HTG) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. 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. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Hunting

How Much Debt Does Hunting Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Hunting had US$4.60m of debt in June 2021, down from US$5.30m, one year before. However, its balance sheet shows it holds US$106.4m in cash, so it actually has US$101.8m net cash.

LSE:HTG Debt to Equity History October 29th 2021

How Healthy Is Hunting's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Hunting had liabilities of US$84.3m due within a year, and liabilities of US$46.1m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$106.4m in cash and US$124.4m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it actually has US$100.4m more liquid assets than total liabilities.

This surplus suggests that Hunting is using debt in a way that is appears to be both safe and conservative. Because it has plenty of assets, it is unlikely to have trouble with its lenders. Simply put, the fact that Hunting has more cash than debt is arguably a good indication that it can manage its debt safely. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Hunting'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.

Over 12 months, Hunting made a loss at the EBIT level, and saw its revenue drop to US$493m, which is a fall of 41%. To be frank that doesn't bode well.

So How Risky Is Hunting?

Although Hunting had an earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) loss over the last twelve months, it generated positive free cash flow of US$75m. So although it is loss-making, it doesn't seem to have too much near-term balance sheet risk, keeping in mind the net cash. With mediocre revenue growth in the last year, we're don't find the investment opportunity particularly compelling. 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 2 warning signs for Hunting that 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.

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