Here's Why Odfjell Drilling (OB:ODL) Is Weighed Down By Its Debt Load

By
Simply Wall St
Published
July 13, 2021
OB:ODL
Source: Shutterstock

The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says '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. We note that Odfjell Drilling Ltd. (OB:ODL) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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 examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Odfjell Drilling

What Is Odfjell Drilling's Net Debt?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Odfjell Drilling had US$1.20b of debt in March 2021, down from US$1.40b, one year before. However, it does have US$194.3m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$1.01b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
OB:ODL Debt to Equity History July 13th 2021

A Look At Odfjell Drilling's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Odfjell Drilling had liabilities of US$660.7m due within a year, and liabilities of US$736.8m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$194.3m in cash and US$145.2m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$1.06b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$594.6m 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. At the end of the day, Odfjell Drilling would probably need a major re-capitalization if its creditors were to demand repayment.

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.

Odfjell Drilling has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.7 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 2.8 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. On a lighter note, we note that Odfjell Drilling grew its EBIT by 23% in the last year. If it can maintain that kind of improvement, its debt load will begin to melt away like glaciers in a warming world. 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 Odfjell Drilling's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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 we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. During the last three years, Odfjell Drilling burned a lot of cash. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.

Our View

On the face of it, Odfjell Drilling's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow left us tentative about the stock, and its level of total liabilities was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least it's pretty decent at growing its EBIT; that's encouraging. Overall, it seems to us that Odfjell Drilling's balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. 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. For example Odfjell Drilling has 3 warning signs (and 2 which are a bit concerning) we think you should know about.

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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