- United Kingdom
- Metals and Mining
Here's Why Antofagasta (LON:ANTO) Can Manage Its Debt Responsibly
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 Antofagasta plc (LON:ANTO) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
When Is Debt A Problem?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.
Check out our latest analysis for Antofagasta
How Much Debt Does Antofagasta Carry?
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of December 2022 Antofagasta had US$3.15b of debt, an increase on US$3.01b, over one year. However, it does have US$2.39b in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$754.1m.
A Look At Antofagasta's Liabilities
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Antofagasta had liabilities of US$1.61b due within 12 months and liabilities of US$4.99b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$2.39b and US$2.12b worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.08b.
Given Antofagasta has a humongous market capitalization of US$17.3b, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time.
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.
Antofagasta's net debt is only 0.27 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 42.0 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. It is just as well that Antofagasta's load is not too heavy, because its EBIT was down 53% over the last year. When it comes to paying off debt, falling earnings are no more useful than sugary sodas are for your health. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Antofagasta'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.
Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Antofagasta recorded free cash flow of 40% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That's not great, when it comes to paying down debt.
Antofagasta's EBIT growth rate was a real negative on this analysis, although the other factors we considered were considerably better. In particular, we are dazzled with its interest cover. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Antofagasta's use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more risky. 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. Be aware that Antofagasta is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is concerning...
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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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.
Antofagasta plc operates as a mining company.
Flawless balance sheet with proven track record.