Does Orion (NYSE:OEC) Have A Healthy Balance Sheet?

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 Orion S.A. (NYSE:OEC) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

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. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. 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. When we think about a company’s use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for Orion

What Is Orion’s Net Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Orion had debt of US$814.3m at the end of December 2023, a reduction from US$915.3m over a year. On the flip side, it has US$53.1m in cash leading to net debt of about US$761.2m.

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NYSE:OEC Debt to Equity History March 22nd 2024

How Healthy Is Orion’s Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Orion had liabilities of US$440.3m due within a year, and liabilities of US$914.6m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had US$53.1m in cash and US$265.9m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$1.04b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$1.36b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on Orion’s use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.

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). 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).

Orion has net debt worth 2.3 times EBITDA, which isn’t too much, but its interest cover looks a bit on the low side, with EBIT at only 4.6 times the interest expense. While these numbers do not alarm us, it’s worth noting that the cost of the company’s debt is having a real impact. Orion grew its EBIT by 8.7% in the last year. Whilst that hardly knocks our socks off it is a positive when it comes to debt. 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 Orion’s ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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 we always check how much of that EBIT is translated into free cash flow. Considering the last three years, Orion actually recorded a cash outflow, overall. Debt is usually more expensive, and almost always more risky in the hands of a company with negative free cash flow. Shareholders ought to hope for an improvement.

Our View

Mulling over Orion’s attempt at converting EBIT to free cash flow, we’re certainly not enthusiastic. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Looking at the balance sheet and taking into account all these factors, we do believe that debt is making Orion stock a bit risky. Some people like that sort of risk, but we’re mindful of the potential pitfalls, so we’d probably prefer it carry less debt. 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 – Orion has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.

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.

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

Find out whether Orion 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.

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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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