Is Aqualis ASA’s (OB:AQUA) Balance Sheet A Threat To Its Future?

Aqualis ASA (OB:AQUA), which has zero-debt on its balance sheet, can maximize capital returns by increasing debt due to its lower cost of capital. However, the trade-off is AQUA will have to follow strict debt obligations which will reduce its financial flexibility. Zero-debt can alleviate some risk associated with the company meeting debt obligations, but this doesn’t automatically mean AQUA has outstanding financial strength. I will take you through a few basic checks to assess the financial health of companies with no debt.

See our latest analysis for Aqualis

Does AQUA’s growth rate justify its decision for financial flexibility over lower cost of capital?

There are well-known benefits of including debt in capital structure, primarily a lower cost of capital. Though, the trade-offs are that lenders require stricter capital management requirements, in addition to having a higher claim on company assets relative to shareholders. Either AQUA does not have access to cheap capital, or it may believe this trade-off is not worth it. This makes sense only if the company has a competitive edge and is growing fast off its equity capital. AQUA’s revenue growth over the past year is a double-digit 24% which is considerably high for a small-cap company. Therefore, the company’s decision to choose financial flexibility is justified as it may need headroom to borrow in the future to sustain high growth.

OB:AQUA Historical Debt October 25th 18
OB:AQUA Historical Debt October 25th 18

Can AQUA pay its short-term liabilities?

Since Aqualis doesn’t have any debt on its balance sheet, it doesn’t have any solvency issues, which is a term used to describe the company’s ability to meet its long-term obligations. However, another measure of financial health is its short-term obligations, which is known as liquidity. These include payments to suppliers, employees and other stakeholders. With current liabilities at US$8m, it appears that the company has maintained a safe level of current assets to meet its obligations, with the current ratio last standing at 2.47x. For Energy Services companies, this ratio is within a sensible range as there’s enough of a cash buffer without holding too much capital in low return investments.

Next Steps:

AQUA is a fast-growing firm, which supports having have zero-debt and financial freedom to continue to ramp up growth. Since there is also no concerns around AQUA’s liquidity needs, this may be its optimal capital structure for the time being. In the future, AQUA’s financial situation may change. This is only a rough assessment of financial health, and I’m sure AQUA has company-specific issues impacting its capital structure decisions. You should continue to research Aqualis to get a more holistic view of the stock by looking at:

  1. Valuation: What is AQUA worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether AQUA is currently mispriced by the market.
  2. Historical Performance: What has AQUA’s returns been like over the past? Go into more detail in the past track record analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of our analysis for more clarity.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.