Howard Marks put it nicely when he said that, rather than worrying about share price volatility, 'The possibility of permanent loss is the risk I worry about... and every practical investor I know worries about.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. Importantly, Ranger Oil Corporation (NASDAQ:ROCC) does carry debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?
Why Does Debt Bring Risk?
Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
How Much Debt Does Ranger Oil Carry?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at September 2021 Ranger Oil had debt of US$749.3m, up from US$525.1m in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$35.3m, its net debt is less, at about US$714.1m.
A Look At Ranger Oil's Liabilities
The latest balance sheet data shows that Ranger Oil had liabilities of US$222.9m due within a year, and liabilities of US$769.8m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$35.3m as well as receivables valued at US$86.8m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$870.7m.
This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of US$1.17b. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.
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).
While Ranger Oil's debt to EBITDA ratio (4.2) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 2.1, suggesting high leverage. In large part that's due to the company's significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. Even worse, Ranger Oil saw its EBIT tank 58% over the last 12 months. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Ranger Oil can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. In the last three years, Ranger Oil created free cash flow amounting to 8.0% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. That limp level of cash conversion undermines its ability to manage and pay down debt.
To be frank both Ranger Oil's interest cover and its track record of (not) growing its EBIT make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. And furthermore, its net debt to EBITDA also fails to instill confidence. Overall, it seems to us that Ranger Oil'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. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Ranger Oil (of which 1 is a bit unpleasant!) 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.
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.