Does Dominion Energy (NYSE:D) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
October 26, 2021
NYSE:D
Source: Shutterstock

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 seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. We note that Dominion Energy, Inc. (NYSE:D) does have debt on its balance sheet. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

See our latest analysis for Dominion Energy

What Is Dominion Energy's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Dominion Energy had US$39.8b in debt in June 2021; about the same as the year before. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn't have much cash.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:D Debt to Equity History October 27th 2021

How Strong Is Dominion Energy's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Dominion Energy had liabilities of US$11.7b due within 12 months and liabilities of US$59.4b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$240.0m in cash and US$1.98b in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$68.9b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's massive market capitalization of US$61.9b, we think shareholders really should watch Dominion Energy's debt levels, like a parent watching their child ride a bike for the first time. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive 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).

With a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 6.3, it's fair to say Dominion Energy does have a significant amount of debt. But the good news is that it boasts fairly comforting interest cover of 2.5 times, suggesting it can responsibly service its obligations. Worse, Dominion Energy's EBIT was down 22% over the last year. If earnings continue to follow that trajectory, paying off that debt load will be harder than convincing us to run a marathon in the rain. 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 Dominion Energy 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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Over the last three years, Dominion Energy recorded negative free cash flow, in total. Debt is far more risky for companies with unreliable free cash flow, so shareholders should be hoping that the past expenditure will produce free cash flow in the future.

Our View

To be frank both Dominion Energy's net debt to EBITDA and its track record of (not) growing its EBIT make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. And furthermore, its interest cover also fails to instill confidence. We should also note that Integrated Utilities industry companies like Dominion Energy commonly do use debt without problems. After considering the datapoints discussed, we think Dominion Energy has too much debt. While some investors love that sort of risky play, it's certainly not our cup of tea. 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 Dominion Energy (at least 1 which is concerning) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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.

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