Stock Analysis

These 4 Measures Indicate That Kodiak Gas Services (NYSE:KGS) Is Using Debt Extensively

NYSE:KGS
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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. Importantly, Kodiak Gas Services, Inc. (NYSE:KGS) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Kodiak Gas Services

How Much Debt Does Kodiak Gas Services Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Kodiak Gas Services had debt of US$1.83b at the end of March 2024, a reduction from US$2.74b over a year. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn't have much cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:KGS Debt to Equity History June 1st 2024

A Look At Kodiak Gas Services' Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Kodiak Gas Services had liabilities of US$237.9m due within a year, and liabilities of US$1.93b falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$14.8m in cash and US$161.6m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.00b.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$2.24b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Kodiak Gas Services' 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). 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 Kodiak Gas Services's debt to EBITDA ratio (4.2) suggests that it uses some debt, its interest cover is very weak, at 1.6, suggesting high leverage. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. The good news is that Kodiak Gas Services improved its EBIT by 8.5% over the last twelve months, thus gradually reducing its debt levels relative to its earnings. 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 Kodiak Gas Services 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.

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, Kodiak Gas Services reported free cash flow worth 6.1% of its EBIT, which is really quite low. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.

Our View

Mulling over Kodiak Gas Services's attempt at covering its interest expense with its EBIT, we're certainly not enthusiastic. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Looking at the bigger picture, it seems clear to us that Kodiak Gas Services's use of debt is creating risks for the company. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. We've identified 2 warning signs with Kodiak Gas Services , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Kodiak Gas Services 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.

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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.