Stock Analysis

We Think Navigator Holdings (NYSE:NVGS) Is Taking Some Risk With Its Debt

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NYSE:NVGS
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David Iben put it well when he said, 'Volatility is not a risk we care about. What we care about is avoiding the permanent loss of capital.' 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. As with many other companies Navigator Holdings Ltd. (NYSE:NVGS) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. 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. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Navigator Holdings

How Much Debt Does Navigator Holdings Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Navigator Holdings had US$789.0m in debt in December 2020; about the same as the year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$59.3m, its net debt is less, at about US$729.7m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:NVGS Debt to Equity History April 5th 2021

How Healthy Is Navigator Holdings' Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Navigator Holdings had liabilities of US$107.2m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$789.8m due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$59.3m and US$46.8m worth of receivables due within a year. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$790.9m.

The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$511.4m company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we definitely think shareholders need to watch this one closely. After all, Navigator Holdings would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today.

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). 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).

Weak interest cover of 1.1 times and a disturbingly high net debt to EBITDA ratio of 6.6 hit our confidence in Navigator Holdings like a one-two punch to the gut. This means we'd consider it to have a heavy debt load. On the other hand, Navigator Holdings grew its EBIT by 30% in the last year. If it can maintain that kind of improvement, its debt load will begin to melt away like glaciers in a warming world. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Navigator Holdings'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 we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Navigator Holdings actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last three years. That sort of strong cash conversion gets us as excited as the crowd when the beat drops at a Daft Punk concert.

Our View

We feel some trepidation about Navigator Holdings's difficulty interest cover, but we've got positives to focus on, too. For example, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow and EBIT growth rate give us some confidence in its ability to manage its debt. Taking the abovementioned factors together we do think Navigator Holdings's debt poses some risks to the business. So while that leverage does boost returns on equity, we wouldn't really want to see it increase from here. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. For example Navigator Holdings has 2 warning signs (and 1 which doesn't sit too well with us) we think you should know about.

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.

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What are the risks and opportunities for Navigator Holdings?

Navigator Holdings Ltd. owns and operates a fleet of liquefied gas carriers worldwide.

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Rewards

  • Trading at 65.8% below our estimate of its fair value

  • Earnings are forecast to grow 29.71% per year

Risks

  • Interest payments are not well covered by earnings

  • Profit margins (0.6%) are lower than last year (3.6%)

  • Large one-off items impacting financial results

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