Stock Analysis

Does Antero Midstream (NYSE:AM) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

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NYSE:AM
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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.' 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 Antero Midstream Corporation (NYSE:AM) does have debt on its balance sheet. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. 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, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Antero Midstream

What Is Antero Midstream's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Antero Midstream had US$3.09b in debt in June 2021; about the same as the year before. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn't have much cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:AM Debt to Equity History September 2nd 2021

How Strong Is Antero Midstream's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Antero Midstream had liabilities of US$117.8m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$3.09b due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$678.0k as well as receivables valued at US$91.4m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$3.12b.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$4.59b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Antero Midstream's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Antero Midstream has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.1 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.5 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. The good news is that Antero Midstream improved its EBIT by 9.4% over the last twelve months, thus gradually reducing its debt levels relative to its earnings. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Antero Midstream can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, Antero Midstream generated free cash flow amounting to a very robust 93% of its EBIT, more than we'd expect. That positions it well to pay down debt if desirable to do so.

Our View

On our analysis Antero Midstream's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow should signal that it won't have too much trouble with its debt. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For example, its net debt to EBITDA makes us a little nervous about its debt. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Antero Midstream's use of debt. While debt does have its upside in higher potential returns, we think shareholders should definitely consider how debt levels might make the stock more 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 example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Antero Midstream that you should be aware of before investing here.

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

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What are the risks and opportunities for Antero Midstream?

Antero Midstream Corporation owns, operates, and develops midstream energy infrastructure.

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Rewards

  • Trading at 24% below our estimate of its fair value

  • Earnings are forecast to grow 10.92% per year

Risks

  • Interest payments are not well covered by earnings

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