Does Murphy USA (NYSE:MUSA) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

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.’ 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 Murphy USA Inc. (NYSE:MUSA) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

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. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. 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, 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.

View our latest analysis for Murphy USA

How Much Debt Does Murphy USA Carry?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Murphy USA had US$1.67b in debt in March 2024; about the same as the year before. However, it does have US$62.8m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$1.61b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:MUSA Debt to Equity History May 22nd 2024

How Strong Is Murphy USA’s Balance Sheet?

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Murphy USA had liabilities of US$884.7m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.64b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$62.8m in cash and US$380.5m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$3.08b.

Murphy USA has a market capitalization of US$9.20b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

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). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

With a debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.6, Murphy USA uses debt artfully but responsibly. And the fact that its trailing twelve months of EBIT was 8.4 times its interest expenses harmonizes with that theme. On the other hand, Murphy USA’s EBIT dived 16%, over the last year. If that rate of decline in earnings continues, the company could find itself in a tight spot. 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 Murphy USA 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.

Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don’t cut it. So we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. During the last three years, Murphy USA produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 62% of its EBIT, about what we’d expect. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

Murphy USA’s EBIT growth rate was a real negative on this analysis, although the other factors we considered cast it in a significantly better light. For example, its interest cover is relatively strong. We think that Murphy USA’s debt does make it a bit risky, after considering the aforementioned data points together. Not all risk is bad, as it can boost share price returns if it pays off, but this debt risk is worth keeping in mind. 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. For instance, we’ve identified 2 warning signs for Murphy USA that you should be aware of.

At the end of the day, it’s often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It’s free.

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

Find out whether Murphy USA 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.

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