Does Orkla (OB:ORK) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 09, 2022
OB:ORK
Source: Shutterstock

Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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. We note that Orkla ASA (OB:ORK) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Orkla

How Much Debt Does Orkla Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of September 2021 Orkla had kr14.0b of debt, an increase on kr8.80b, over one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of kr1.25b, its net debt is less, at about kr12.8b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
OB:ORK Debt to Equity History January 9th 2022

How Strong Is Orkla's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Orkla had liabilities of kr15.9b due within 12 months, and liabilities of kr16.3b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had kr1.25b in cash and kr8.35b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total kr22.7b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit isn't so bad because Orkla is worth kr86.1b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). 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).

Orkla's net debt to EBITDA ratio of about 1.8 suggests only moderate use of debt. And its commanding EBIT of 38.5 times its interest expense, implies the debt load is as light as a peacock feather. Orkla grew its EBIT by 7.4% in the last year. That's far from incredible but it is a good thing, when it comes to paying off debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Orkla'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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Orkla recorded free cash flow worth 69% 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

The good news is that Orkla's demonstrated ability to cover its interest expense with its EBIT delights us like a fluffy puppy does a toddler. And that's just the beginning of the good news since its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is also very heartening. Taking all this data into account, it seems to us that Orkla takes a pretty sensible approach to debt. While that brings some risk, it can also enhance returns for shareholders. We'd be motivated to research the stock further if we found out that Orkla insiders have bought shares recently. If you would too, then you're in luck, since today we're sharing our list of reported insider transactions for free.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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