Stock Analysis

Is Oceaneering International (NYSE:OII) Using Too Much Debt?

NYSE:OII
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Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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 can see that Oceaneering International, Inc. (NYSE:OII) does use debt in its business. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

When Is Debt A Problem?

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. 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. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Oceaneering International

How Much Debt Does Oceaneering International Carry?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Oceaneering International had debt of US$702.1m at the end of December 2021, a reduction from US$805.3m over a year. However, it does have US$544.3m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$157.7m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:OII Debt to Equity History March 6th 2022

How Strong Is Oceaneering International's Balance Sheet?

According to the last reported balance sheet, Oceaneering International had liabilities of US$501.2m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$950.7m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$544.3m in cash and US$427.8m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities total US$479.7m more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables.

This deficit isn't so bad because Oceaneering International is worth US$1.51b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

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).

Given net debt is only 0.88 times EBITDA, it is initially surprising to see that Oceaneering International's EBIT has low interest coverage of 1.1 times. So one way or the other, it's clear the debt levels are not trivial. We also note that Oceaneering International improved its EBIT from a last year's loss to a positive US$40m. 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 Oceaneering International 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.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. Over the last year, Oceaneering International actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT. There's nothing better than incoming cash when it comes to staying in your lenders' good graces.

Our View

Based on what we've seen Oceaneering International is not finding it easy, given its interest cover, but the other factors we considered give us cause to be optimistic. There's no doubt that its ability to to convert EBIT to free cash flow is pretty flash. Considering this range of data points, we think Oceaneering International is in a good position to manage its debt levels. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. 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, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Oceaneering International that you should be aware of before investing here.

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.

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

Find out whether Oceaneering International 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.