June 17, 2024

Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' 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 Sunnova Energy International Inc. (NYSE:NOVA) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?
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. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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 Sunnova Energy International
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2022 Sunnova Energy International had debt of US$4.15b, up from US$2.73b in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$215.4m, its net debt is less, at about US$3.94b.
The latest balance sheet data shows that Sunnova Energy International had liabilities of US$387.7m due within a year, and liabilities of US$4.52b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$215.4m and US$227.7m worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$4.47b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
The deficiency here weighs heavily on the US$2.53b company itself, as if a child were struggling under the weight of an enormous back-pack full of books, his sports gear, and a trumpet. So we'd watch its balance sheet closely, without a doubt. After all, Sunnova Energy International would likely require a major re-capitalisation if it had to pay its creditors today. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Sunnova Energy International'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.
In the last year Sunnova Energy International wasn't profitable at an EBIT level, but managed to grow its revenue by 77%, to US$347m. With any luck the company will be able to grow its way to profitability.
Even though Sunnova Energy International managed to grow its top line quite deftly, the cold hard truth is that it is losing money on the EBIT line. Indeed, it lost US$49m at the EBIT level. Considering that alongside the liabilities mentioned above make us nervous about the company. We'd want to see some strong near-term improvements before getting too interested in the stock. Not least because it burned through US$960m in negative free cash flow over the last year. So suffice it to say we consider the stock to be risky. 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 example, we've discovered 5 warning signs for Sunnova Energy International (1 is potentially serious!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.
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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 Sunnova Energy 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.
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Sunnova Energy International Inc. provides residential energy services 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 limited growth.
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.
Sunnova Energy International Inc. provides residential energy services 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 limited growth.
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