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.' 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 can see that Ormat Technologies, Inc. (NYSE:ORA) does use debt in its business. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?
When Is Debt A Problem?
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. 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 thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
What Is Ormat Technologies's Net Debt?
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2021 Ormat Technologies had debt of US$1.42b, up from US$1.35b in one year. However, it does have US$296.0m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$1.12b.
How Healthy Is Ormat Technologies' Balance Sheet?
According to the last reported balance sheet, Ormat Technologies had liabilities of US$246.2m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$1.60b due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$296.0m in cash and US$162.9m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$1.39b.
This deficit isn't so bad because Ormat Technologies is worth US$3.91b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.
We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.
While we wouldn't worry about Ormat Technologies's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.3, we think its super-low interest cover of 2.2 times is a sign of high leverage. In large part that's due to the company's significant depreciation and amortisation charges, which arguably mean its EBITDA is a very generous measure of earnings, and its debt may be more of a burden than it first appears. So shareholders should probably be aware that interest expenses appear to have really impacted the business lately. Another concern for investors might be that Ormat Technologies's EBIT fell 16% in the last year. If things keep going like that, handling the debt will about as easy as bundling an angry house cat into its travel box. 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 Ormat Technologies 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 the logical step is to look at the proportion of that EBIT that is matched by actual free cash flow. Over the last three years, Ormat Technologies saw substantial negative free cash flow, in total. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.
To be frank both Ormat Technologies's EBIT growth rate and its track record of converting EBIT to free cash flow make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But at least its level of total liabilities is not so bad. Overall, it seems to us that Ormat Technologies's balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. 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 Ormat Technologies (1 is potentially serious!) 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.
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.
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