Stock Analysis

Is Norwegian Energy (OB:NOR) A Risky Investment?

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OB:NOR
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Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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, Norwegian Energy Company ASA (OB:NOR) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

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How Much Debt Does Norwegian Energy Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Norwegian Energy had US$1.20b in debt in June 2022; about the same as the year before. However, it also had US$241.9m in cash, and so its net debt is US$953.7m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
OB:NOR Debt to Equity History September 3rd 2022

How Strong Is Norwegian Energy's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Norwegian Energy had liabilities of US$440.6m due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.42b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$241.9m in cash and US$107.0m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.51b.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$905.7m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Norwegian Energy would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Norwegian Energy has net debt worth 2.2 times EBITDA, which isn't too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 2.6 times the interest expense. While that doesn't worry us too much, it does suggest the interest payments are somewhat of a burden. Pleasingly, Norwegian Energy is growing its EBIT faster than former Australian PM Bob Hawke downs a yard glass, boasting a 808% gain in the last twelve months. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Norwegian Energy 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, 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. Over the most recent three years, Norwegian Energy recorded free cash flow worth 76% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

While Norwegian Energy's level of total liabilities has us nervous. To wit both its EBIT growth rate and conversion of EBIT to free cash flow were encouraging signs. We think that Norwegian Energy's debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since leverage can boost returns on equity, but it is something to be aware of. 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. We've identified 3 warning signs with Norwegian Energy (at least 1 which makes us a bit uncomfortable) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

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About OB:NOR

Norwegian Energy

Norwegian Energy Company ASA, an oil and gas company, focuses on the exploration, development, and production of hydrocarbon resources in Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.

Analysis AreaScore (0-6)
Valuation5
Future Growth6
Past Performance0
Financial Health3
Dividends0

Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.

Exceptional growth potential and undervalued.