Stock Analysis

These 4 Measures Indicate That Oceaneering International (NYSE:OII) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

NYSE:OII
Source: Shutterstock

The external fund manager backed by Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger, Li Lu, makes no bones about it when he says 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a 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 Oceaneering International, Inc. (NYSE:OII) makes use of debt. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

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. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. 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 Oceaneering International

How Much Debt Does Oceaneering International Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Oceaneering International had US$701.8m of debt in March 2022, down from US$804.9m, one year before. However, it does have US$444.2m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$257.6m.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:OII Debt to Equity History June 19th 2022

How Strong Is Oceaneering International's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Oceaneering International had liabilities of US$465.4m due within a year, and liabilities of US$934.5m falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$444.2m as well as receivables valued at US$475.4m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$480.3m.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Oceaneering International has a market capitalization of US$981.5m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

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).

While Oceaneering International has a quite reasonable net debt to EBITDA multiple of 1.6, its interest cover seems weak, at 0.71. In large part that's it has so much depreciation and amortisation. While companies often boast that these charges are non-cash, most such businesses will therefore require ongoing investment (that is not expensed.) In any case, it's safe to say the company has meaningful debt. We also note that Oceaneering International improved its EBIT from a last year's loss to a positive US$25m. 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 want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. So it is important to check how much of its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) converts to actual free cash flow. Happily for any shareholders, Oceaneering International actually produced more free cash flow than EBIT over the last year. That sort of strong cash generation warms our hearts like a puppy in a bumblebee suit.

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. In particular, we are dazzled with its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow. When we consider all the factors mentioned above, we do feel a bit cautious about Oceaneering International's use of debt. While we appreciate debt can enhance returns on equity, we'd suggest that shareholders keep close watch on its debt levels, lest they increase. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Oceaneering International .

Of course, if you're the type of investor who prefers buying stocks without the burden of debt, then don't hesitate to discover our exclusive list of net cash growth stocks, today.

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.

View the Free Analysis

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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.