February 21, 2024

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. As with many other companies Southwestern Energy Company (NYSE:SWN) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. 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. 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 Southwestern Energy
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2022 Southwestern Energy had debt of US$5.09b, up from US$3.02b in one year. Net debt is about the same, since the it doesn't have much cash.
The latest balance sheet data shows that Southwestern Energy had liabilities of US$5.29b due within a year, and liabilities of US$6.60b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$50.0m and US$1.78b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$10.1b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's US$8.22b market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. Hypothetically, extremely heavy dilution would be required if the company were forced to pay down its liabilities by raising capital at the current share price. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Southwestern Energy 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.
Over 12 months, Southwestern Energy reported revenue of US$12b, which is a gain of 239%, although it did not report any earnings before interest and tax. When it comes to revenue growth, that's like nailing the game winning 3-pointer!
Even though Southwestern Energy managed to grow its top line quite deftly, the cold hard truth is that it is losing money on the EBIT line. To be specific the EBIT loss came in at US$604m. When we look at that alongside the significant liabilities, we're not particularly confident about the company. We'd want to see some strong near-term improvements before getting too interested in the stock. For example, we would not want to see a repeat of last year's loss of US$998m. In the meantime, we consider the stock to be risky. 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 instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Southwestern Energy that 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.
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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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.
Southwestern Energy Company, an independent energy company, engages in the exploration, development, and production of natural gas, oil, and natural gas liquids (NGLs) 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.
Good value with reasonable growth potential.
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.
Southwestern Energy Company, an independent energy company, engages in the exploration, development, and production of natural gas, oil, and natural gas liquids (NGLs) 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.
Good value with reasonable growth potential.
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.

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