- New Zealand
- Electric Utilities
We Think Manawa Energy (NZSE:MNW) Is Taking Some Risk With Its Debt
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.' 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 Manawa Energy Limited (NZSE:MNW) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
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. 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 thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
See our latest analysis for Manawa Energy
What Is Manawa Energy's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Manawa Energy had debt of NZ$494.1m at the end of September 2022, a reduction from NZ$678.5m over a year. However, because it has a cash reserve of NZ$33.4m, its net debt is less, at about NZ$460.6m.
How Strong Is Manawa Energy's Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, Manawa Energy had liabilities of NZ$195.5m due within 12 months, and liabilities of NZ$696.9m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had NZ$33.4m in cash and NZ$35.1m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling NZ$823.9m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
This deficit isn't so bad because Manawa Energy is worth NZ$1.69b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.
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). 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).
Manawa Energy has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.1 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 5.4 times. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Shareholders should be aware that Manawa Energy's EBIT was down 28% last year. If that earnings trend continues then paying off its debt will be about as easy as herding cats on to a roller coaster. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Manawa Energy'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 last three years, Manawa Energy recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 85% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.
Neither Manawa Energy's ability to grow its EBIT nor its net debt to EBITDA gave us confidence in its ability to take on more debt. But the good news is it seems to be able to convert EBIT to free cash flow with ease. We should also note that Electric Utilities industry companies like Manawa Energy commonly do use debt without problems. Looking at all the angles mentioned above, it does seem to us that Manawa Energy is a somewhat risky investment as a result of its debt. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. 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 Manawa Energy (at least 1 which doesn't sit too well with us) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
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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Find out whether Manawa Energy is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.View the Free Analysis
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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.
Manawa Energy Limited engages in the ownership and operation of electricity generation facilities in New Zealand.
Adequate balance sheet with limited growth.