November 30, 2022

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. Importantly, Weatherford International plc (NASDAQ:WFRD) does carry debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
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. 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, 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.
Check out our latest analysis for Weatherford International
You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that Weatherford International had US$2.37b of debt in June 2022, down from US$2.56b, one year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$879.0m, its net debt is less, at about US$1.50b.
The latest balance sheet data shows that Weatherford International had liabilities of US$1.38b due within a year, and liabilities of US$2.86b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$879.0m as well as receivables valued at US$971.0m due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$2.39b.
Given this deficit is actually higher than the company's market capitalization of US$2.08b, we think shareholders really should watch Weatherford International'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.
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).
While Weatherford International has a quite reasonable net debt to EBITDA multiple of 2.3, its interest cover seems weak, at 1.2. In large part that's it has so much depreciation and amortisation. These charges may be non-cash, so they could be excluded when it comes to paying down debt. But the accounting charges are there for a reason — some assets are seen to be losing value. Either way there's no doubt the stock is using meaningful leverage. We also note that Weatherford International improved its EBIT from a last year's loss to a positive US$262m. 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 Weatherford International 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 it's worth checking how much of the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) is backed by free cash flow. In the last year, Weatherford International's free cash flow amounted to 35% of its EBIT, less than we'd expect. That weak cash conversion makes it more difficult to handle indebtedness.
We'd go so far as to say Weatherford International's interest cover was disappointing. Having said that, its ability to grow its EBIT isn't such a worry. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Weatherford International has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If all goes well, that should boost returns, but on the flip side, the risk of permanent capital loss is elevated by the debt. Even though Weatherford International lost money on the bottom line, its positive EBIT suggests the business itself has potential. So you might want to check out how earnings have been trending over the last few years.
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.
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.
Find out whether Weatherford International 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.
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.
Weatherford International plc, an energy services company, provides equipment and services for the drilling, evaluation, completion, production, and intervention of oil, geothermal, and natural gas wells worldwide.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Undervalued with excellent balance sheet.
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.
Weatherford International plc, an energy services company, provides equipment and services for the drilling, evaluation, completion, production, and intervention of oil, geothermal, and natural gas wells worldwide.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Undervalued with excellent balance sheet.
Simply Wall Street Pty Ltd (ACN 600 056 611), is a Corporate Authorised Representative (Authorised Representative Number: 467183) of Sanlam Private Wealth Pty Ltd (AFSL No. 337927). Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should not rely on any advice and/or information contained in this website and before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice. Please read our Financial Services Guide before deciding whether to obtain financial services from us.

source

Leave a Reply