Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR) Has A Somewhat Strained Balance Sheet

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 27, 2021
NYSE:MAXR
Source: Shutterstock

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 Maxar Technologies Inc. (NYSE:MAXR) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. 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. Having said that, the most common situation is where a company manages its debt reasonably well - and to its own advantage. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Maxar Technologies

What Is Maxar Technologies's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Maxar Technologies had debt of US$2.13b at the end of September 2021, a reduction from US$2.48b over a year. And it doesn't have much cash, so its net debt is about the same.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:MAXR Debt to Equity History December 27th 2021

How Healthy Is Maxar Technologies' Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Maxar Technologies had liabilities of US$606.0m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$2.48b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$36.0m in cash and US$365.0m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$2.68b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of US$2.26b, we think shareholders really should watch Maxar Technologies's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Weak interest cover of 0.91 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 5.1 hit our confidence in Maxar Technologies like a one-two punch to the gut. The debt burden here is substantial. However, the silver lining was that Maxar Technologies achieved a positive EBIT of US$115m in the last twelve months, an improvement on the prior year's loss. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Maxar Technologies'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 it is important to check how much of its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) converts to actual free cash flow. In the last year, Maxar Technologies basically broke even on a free cash flow basis. While many companies do operate at break-even, we prefer see substantial free cash flow, especially if a it already has dead.

Our View

On the face of it, Maxar Technologies's net debt to EBITDA left us tentative about the stock, and its interest cover was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least its EBIT growth rate is not so bad. We're quite clear that we consider Maxar Technologies to be really rather risky, as a result of its balance sheet health. So we're almost as wary of this stock as a hungry kitten is about falling into its owner's fish pond: once bitten, twice shy, as they say. 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. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Maxar Technologies you should know about.

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.

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