July 14, 2024

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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. As with many other companies IDACORP, Inc. (NYSE:IDA) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
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. 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 thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.
View our latest analysis for IDACORP
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2022 IDACORP had debt of US$2.15b, up from US$2.00b in one year. However, it also had US$262.9m in cash, and so its net debt is US$1.89b.
Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that IDACORP had liabilities of US$449.0m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$4.29b due beyond that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$262.9m and US$198.4m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$4.28b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
This deficit is considerable relative to its market capitalization of US$5.35b, so it does suggest shareholders should keep an eye on IDACORP's use of debt. This suggests shareholders would be heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.
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.
IDACORP has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.0 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 3.1 times. This suggests that while the debt levels are significant, we'd stop short of calling them problematic. Even more troubling is the fact that IDACORP actually let its EBIT decrease by 5.4% over the last year. If it keeps going like that paying off its debt will be like running on a treadmill — a lot of effort for not much advancement. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine IDACORP's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. 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. In the last three years, IDACORP created free cash flow amounting to 13% of its EBIT, an uninspiring performance. For us, cash conversion that low sparks a little paranoia about is ability to extinguish debt.
To be frank both IDACORP's net debt to EBITDA and its track record of covering its interest expense with its EBIT make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. And furthermore, its level of total liabilities also fails to instill confidence. We should also note that Electric Utilities industry companies like IDACORP commonly do use debt without problems. Overall, we think it's fair to say that IDACORP 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. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for IDACORP you should be aware of, and 1 of them is significant.
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.
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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.
Find out whether IDACORP 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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IDACORP, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, engages in the generation, transmission, distribution, purchase, and sale of electric energy in the United States.
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.
Average dividend payer with mediocre 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.
IDACORP, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, engages in the generation, transmission, distribution, purchase, and sale of electric energy in the United States.
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.
Average dividend payer with mediocre balance sheet.
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