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.' It's only natural to consider a company's balance sheet when you examine how risky it is, since debt is often involved when a business collapses. As with many other companies Petrolia SE (OB:PSE) makes use of 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.
What Is Petrolia's Net Debt?
As you can see below, Petrolia had US$4.62m of debt at December 2021, down from US$5.16m a year prior. However, its balance sheet shows it holds US$16.1m in cash, so it actually has US$11.5m net cash.
How Strong Is Petrolia's Balance Sheet?
The latest balance sheet data shows that Petrolia had liabilities of US$20.2m due within a year, and liabilities of US$9.83m falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$16.1m and US$11.5m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.42m.
Since publicly traded Petrolia shares are worth a total of US$42.4m, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. While it does have liabilities worth noting, Petrolia also has more cash than debt, so we're pretty confident it can manage its debt safely.
Even more impressive was the fact that Petrolia grew its EBIT by 246% over twelve months. That boost will make it even easier to pay down debt going forward. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But you can't view debt in total isolation; since Petrolia will need earnings to service that debt. So if you're keen to discover more about its earnings, it might be worth checking out this graph of its long term earnings trend.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. While Petrolia has net cash on its balance sheet, it's still worth taking a look at its ability to convert earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, to help us understand how quickly it is building (or eroding) that cash balance. Happily for any shareholders, Petrolia actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.
While it is always sensible to look at a company's total liabilities, it is very reassuring that Petrolia has US$11.5m in net cash. And it impressed us with free cash flow of US$11m, being 152% of its EBIT. So we don't think Petrolia's use of debt is risky. 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 instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Petrolia that you should be aware of.
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.
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.