Stock Analysis

Is Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries (ATH:MOH) A Risky Investment?

ATSE:MOH
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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.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. Importantly, Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries S.A. (ATH:MOH) does carry debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

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. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Our analysis indicates that MOH is potentially undervalued!

What Is Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries's Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of June 2022, Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries had €2.18b of debt, up from €1.91b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, because it has a cash reserve of €953.9m, its net debt is less, at about €1.23b.

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ATSE:MOH Debt to Equity History November 4th 2022

A Look At Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries' Liabilities

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries had liabilities of €2.64b due within 12 months and liabilities of €2.30b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of €953.9m and €1.67b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling €2.31b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of €1.94b, we think shareholders really should watch Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. 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). 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).

Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries has a low net debt to EBITDA ratio of only 1.1. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 16.4 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. Even more impressive was the fact that Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries grew its EBIT by 276% over twelve months. That boost will make it even easier to pay down debt going forward. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries 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 we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. In the last two years, Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries created free cash flow amounting to 13% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.

Our View

We feel some trepidation about Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries's difficulty level of total liabilities, but we've got positives to focus on, too. To wit both its interest cover and EBIT growth rate were encouraging signs. We think that Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. 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. We've identified 3 warning signs with Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries (at least 1 which is concerning) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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 Motor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries 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.