Agnico Eagle Mines (NYSE:AEM) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 21, 2021
NYSE:AEM
Source: Shutterstock

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.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We note that Agnico Eagle Mines Limited (NYSE:AEM) 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. 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. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth 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 Agnico Eagle Mines

How Much Debt Does Agnico Eagle Mines Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Agnico Eagle Mines had US$1.57b in debt in September 2021; about the same as the year before. On the flip side, it has US$243.6m in cash leading to net debt of about US$1.32b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:AEM Debt to Equity History December 21st 2021

How Healthy Is Agnico Eagle Mines' Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Agnico Eagle Mines had liabilities of US$883.9m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$3.27b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$243.6m and US$109.4m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$3.80b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit isn't so bad because Agnico Eagle Mines is worth a massive US$12.6b, 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.

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).

Agnico Eagle Mines's net debt is only 0.72 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 14.6 times the size. So you could argue it is no more threatened by its debt than an elephant is by a mouse. While Agnico Eagle Mines doesn't seem to have gained much on the EBIT line, at least earnings remain stable for now. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Agnico Eagle Mines's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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 it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. Looking at the most recent three years, Agnico Eagle Mines recorded free cash flow of 26% of its EBIT, which is weaker than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for Agnico Eagle Mines was the fact that it seems able to cover its interest expense with its EBIT confidently. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. For example, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow makes us a little nervous about its debt. Considering this range of data points, we think Agnico Eagle Mines 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. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. We've identified 1 warning sign with Agnico Eagle Mines , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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.

Discounted cash flow calculation for every stock

Simply Wall St does a detailed discounted cash flow calculation every 6 hours for every stock on the market, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any company just search here. It’s FREE.

Make Confident Investment Decisions

Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.